Lifestyle

“In the shade of the walnut tree” featured in a magazine.

I wrote an article for LEEF, an Afrikaans magazine in SA, about our life here in France. Their February summer issue was devoted to all things French and I was asked to do a contribution. I called it “In the shade of the walnut tree”. This is our favorite spot in summer time where we enjoy our apéros and amuses bouches, long lazy lunches and philosophical discussions.

leef 10001-001So…for the Afrikaans readers out there; the February issue of LEEF magazine is still available on the shelves. For my English and other readers I will soon translate the article into English and post it here.

Nonards 2563x1895.NEF

In the meantime, here in the French countryside we are enveloped in the blankets of winter with misty days, rain, and cloudy skies.  It makes for an ambiance filled season and we all enjoy gathering in the bistros around cups of coffee or chocolat chauds. Those more daring go for a glass of Ricard. We talk about the cold and the rain congested soil and what we’re having for dinner. Nestled in the misty hills, the chimneys have trails of smoke. The kitchens smell of les potages, soupes et veloutés and long sauce bourguignons.  Our animals are safely sheltered in the stables while the fields are left bare  for regrowth. We are cocooning.

chocolat

Correze country side

Puy d'Arnac Charlone 2582x1563.NEF

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à la prochaine fois!

Ronelle


Joyeux Noël 2013!

This year we have only but un petit Noël. We are in the process of moving home and want to be finished by end of December. Typical. Waiting until the last minute to get a lot of things done. And so Noël will have to stand over to next year when I will make up for it in our new home here at Coin Perdu(hopefully restored and liveable by that time..)

To have at least some Christmas spirit in our current barn/home, I put up a branch with some decorations which weren’t packed away too deep. The result is a very rustic tree…and what do you know..without planning it, it turned into a story tree! I am now very chuffed with our impromptu story tree!

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“One day…in a forest far, far in the cold North, was a large forest where the animals roamed gay and free. It was a magical world, undisturbed and quiet, with soft snowflakes sifting gently to the ground and covering the landscape in a coat of white glitter. There were  three quaint little houses with strawberry red walls. Birds were visiting freely, dropping letters through the windows of the three strawberry houses, where  Pére Noël and his elves would sort and read them; while laughing, singing and dancing and working. Then one silent night , the reindeer broke through the darkness with bells and glitter and song,  a hearty laugh echoed through the forest as Pére Noël waved his hand to his family, on his way through a sky of shooting stars to deliver happiness and joy to an outside world.”

..the forest was filled with birds and ice and mosss and lichens..

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…and the elves worked while they danced and sung merry songs..

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..the reindeer were ready, waiting…

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Three quaint houses with strawberry red walls..

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..and the skies were bright with shooting stars..

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May you all,  on that dark night when the stars will be extra bright and you hear a hearty laugh,  receive countless gifts of happiness and joy!!

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Joyeux Noël

Ronelle


Rustic apples in puff pastry(bourdelots aux pommes)..and l’hotel de ville.

Autumn is the time of year we eat rustic food. Finish are the dainty salads and light desserts..we now go for rustic, unadorned meals. Apples are in abundance and it will be a shame to allow the time to pass and not use them to their full. I saw these apples in pastry somewhere in a magazine and I only remember they were called by the melodious name of Bourdelots and it looked much prettier than mine. I made them just on feeling, and I can’t imagine the magazine version being tastier, because they are so delicious with the puff pastry and brown sugar and apricot jam…and don’t they look pretty rustic too..(good excuse, n’est pas)?

..Rustic apples in puff pastry..

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La Recette:

  1. Clean and peel 4 apples, remove the inner core and drizzle with lemon juice.
  2. Unroll a sheet of puff pastry, cut into quarters. Place 4 quarters on a baking paper on a baking sheet.
  3. Place an apple on each quarter. Fill the apples with a teaspoon of apricot jam, a knob of butter and sproinkle with brown sugar.
  4. Wrap the pastry around the apples and brush with beaten egg.
  5. If you have puff pastry left, cut strips and stick it around the apples from top to bottom.
  6. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  7. Reheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  8. Remove the apples from the fridge, brush again with beaten egg. Sprinkle again with brown sugar.
  9. Place on sprigs of rosemary  and bake in the hot oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for another 25 minutes.
  10. If the apples get too dark on top, cover with brown paper.
  11. Serve warm, or at room temperature with a big dollop of whooped cream or a scoop of créme fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

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Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Bring the dough right up to the edge of the apples which will ensure that the apples are covered more fully with pastry.
  • In order for puff pastry to rise high and crispy, the dough must be cold and baked in a hot oven for the first 10- 15 minutes.
  • Serve the apples as a side dish with a meat roast, like pork or venison.
  • Fill the apples with spices of your choice or with dried fruit like raisins and nuts.

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The mairie or hotel de ville is an important part of every city, town and village in France. It can be as tiny as a hamlet, but it will have a mairie and an eglise. The hotel de ville is usually bigger and houses the  mairie and houses several administration departments. But they both hop-use the office of the mayor of a town and the administration offices as well as an école of the commune. So it is no strange sight to see kiddies run around at lunchtime in part of the grounds of the mairie.

The mairies of the campagne has nothing to do with the elaborate and grand hotels de ville of the cities, like Paris or Tours, Lyon. Some are so small, you even pass by it without knowing.

les hotels de villes - Beaulieu 1

..the mairie in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne..

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..with its administration offices around the corner..

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..the little hotel de ville in Bétaille, just alongside he main road through the village..

les hotels de villes - Bétaille &

..the very typical stone hotel de ville of Biars-sur-Cere, with its lovely surroundings,dressed each season in different vegetation..

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..le mairie of Biars sur Cere.

les hotels de villes -Biars sur Cere 1

..the mairie is still wearing its summer ballgown and pretty soon, with Toussaint at 1 November, it will change to Fall Chrysanthemes..

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..In Bretenoux, the hotel de ville is obscured by lovely trees..

les hotels de villes - Bretenoux 1

..and right opposite it, is the traditional memorial of the soldiers who fought in the war..

les hotels de villes - Bretenoux 2

..the quaint, typically Corrézien mairie of Le Pescher where our eldest got married..

les hotels de villes - Le Pescher 1

..and next to it, the mémorial of Le Pescher..

les hotels de villes - Le Pescher 2

..the mairie of Marcillac la Croze is one of those you pass by without knowing..it sits up on a hill, all alone. The day I looked for this mairie I drove up to its pretty eglise, full of history and asked a gentleman who was raking the  leaves, where I could find the mairie. We got caught up in a 30 minute conversation. I had to cut the motor of the car after a while, because he just couldn’t stop talking..

les hotels de villes - Marcillac la Croze

..Of course I can’t leave our own sweet village of Puy d’Arnac behind. Our mairie has recently had a makeover and is now a chic gathering point in the village where the mayor has her offices and I often have to drop in for keys for  the garbage points or documents or this or that..

  les hotels de villes - Puy d'Arnac

..and right next to the mairie, its école

les hotels de villes - Puy d'Arnac 2

..in Vayrac, the hotel de ville is huge with a big spacious place in front of it..

les hotels de villes -Vayrac 1

..and to the side, village life continues..

les hotels de villes - Vayrac 2

..Altillac has a beautiful building and I pass it almost every day to buy baguette and cheese..The pride of India trees  in front complement the building so beautiful in high summer…I always slow down and admire this mairie.. les hotels de villes -Altillac 1

..the mairie of la Chapelle aux Saints, is really out in la campagne and stands all alone among green fields..

les hotels de villes - la Chapelle aux saints 4

This is a prehistoric area, a very important sightseeing site in our area and the mairie forms part of the site..the ecole is at the back of the mairie..

   les mairies les mairies1

There is still so much to show and so much to be said about the hotel de ville in France and every town’s mairie is special.. Once you have found a town’s hotel de ville, you have also found its centre ville. I will certainly explore and show more at a later stage. These ones are all in a radius of 20 minutes from home. And like the hotels de villes, there are also the fascinating eglises, which I’ll save for another time.

So, with the theme of hotel de ville and French admin , I want to share the Marseillaise, sung by my favorite artist…Edith of course! We celebrated her life in PAris, as she died 50 years ago this October. I just LOVE her..and the song – I sing along with her just as loud as she does! Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lu3eSNi__4w#t=33

..à la prochaine fois..

Ronelle


Salmon, apple and dill amuse bouche…and a touch of green.

The regulars here on Myfrenchkitchen will by now know how much I love an apéro(apéritif), or amuse bouche, or the spanish tapas.. On weekends it is standard practice in our home to have a glass of wine before dinner with an apéro. I hope one day in heaven there will be some apéros awaiting me on weekends- that and good coffee-or else I will take my business elsewhere…

As all the regulars will alos know, is that everything on Myfrenchkitchen is simple, as these salmon amuses bouches clearly show. The only requisite is “l’envie”, the desire to make it and enjoy it.

apple salmoin amuse bouche 04-10-2013 12-50-19 2462x2106 La Recette:

  1. Cut 140 g smoked salmon into thin strips, about 2cm wide. If possible, use wild salmon, which is much stronger in flavour. If you have your own gravlax that you made, all the better. Wash and cut green 1 large Granny Smith apple(unpeeled) into matchtsticks. Drizzle liberally with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  2. Wash a few branches of fresh dill.
  3. Roll about 5 matchsticks of apple and a tiny branch of dill in a strip of salmon.
  4. Arrange on a platter, sprinkle with freshly milled pepper and decorate with lemon slices, dill flowers and serve with cold white wine, rosé, sparkling wine or champagne.
  5. One large Granny Smith apple and 140g smoked salmon (4 slices) make about 14 amuse bouche.Provide for 3 – 4 helpings per person if it is the only apéritif served.

Serves 3-4 people.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use fresh fennel or fresh chertvil instead of dill.
  • Add a dollop of sour cream or crème fraìche when rolling the salmon.
  • Serve with a bowl of mayonniase or crème fraîche as an accompanying dip.
  • Use other fruits in season and use smoked ham instead of salmon.

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Since we are in the greens today…the hydrangeas are beautiful at the moment with nuances of green and salmon. Two Granny smith apples complete the picture in the barn.

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..Green is one of the colours I love for setting tables outside. And blue. And red. And of course white. And ochre. Well, for that matter, all colours! I have a few things here at Coin Perdu which we often use for dining on the terrace in summer: rustic green rimmed glasses, old bottles, green fun plates, green banana lreaf bowls, green pottery bowls..

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..Some small wild apples live in harmony with berries and egglantine rosehips..

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..the birds don’t shy away from digging into the small wild apples..

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..and neither do the horses..

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..when going through my artwork in search of painted apples, I realized I have almost nothing. I had to rectify that immediately with a sketch. Green is a difficult colour. So many shades of it in nature. The challenge lies in creating your own green from yellows and blues with touches of reds and purples. That way you get much richer and interesting greens than the greens directly from the tube.

apples aqua

..à bientôt!.

Ronelle


A Flashback to summer.

We have been cheated a bit out of spring and summer here in France this year, but we have had our week or two of beautiful, perfect hot weather! When looking back, it was all good, however short. I am lucky enough to have my birthday in summer and we had the most beautiful evening, spent around our bistro table with friends and family. It was special.

..birthday around a bistro table..

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..and around the fire, every evening..

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..the sound of running water, every day..

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..fruit and fruit and fruit..

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..alcohol free mojito, especially for me..

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..always an apéro with our glass of wine, in this case stuffed cherry tomatoes with ricotta and herbs..

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..tomatoes from the potager for dinner..

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As far as automne goes..the leaves haven’t coloured yet and the days are still sunny and warm, with slight winds, clouds are rolling by fast in the blue skies and the waters of the streams are still, awaiting the first rainfalls.

But before I start sounding like Thursday’s weatherman..

Welcome back to Myfrenchkitchen! I’ve had a busy summer and September was spent doing only art every day, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I posted my art when I had time and if you are interested you can see some posts on Africantapestry. It was a great month for me , trying different methods and mediums, searching for new directions. I did a lot of plein air painting, just practiced techniques in the evenings, making terrible messes( on the canvas and my clothes!), but I enjoyed every minute!

..three houses, oil on linen..

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“A big thank you to everybody who supported me and especially Monique, who was there with me EVERY day, in spite of her busy schedule. Your encouragement and support throughout the month…I can’t express how much that meant to me! Please drop in at La table de Nana and catch up on her beautiful posts of this past summer…just an inspiring place to visit!! When I am down, I visit Monique at La table de Nana..”

..young chicks..

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..Gubi and the geese, Aglaé and Sidonie..

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..Roquefort..

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..Gaitchi, Gubi and her fillette Dumêla..

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So. With these images of our sweet animals ,  I say goodbye! to summer and its fun and hi there! to fall and its splendour. Even on my Pinterest page, I have gone “autumn”, so inspired by the decorating for fall, the colour of the sunsets, the champignons, apples and acorns, the deep and atmospheric colour of nature just waiting to explode.

..spider webs on an early September morning..

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à trés bientôt

Ronelle


Café Douceur in Beaulieu sur Dordogne et sa tarte aux pommes

If ever you are in the area of Beaulieu sur Dordogne, be sure to drop in at Café Douceur  for either a coffee or tea accompanied by homemade treats, or for a light lunch.

Si vous vous trouvez dans la région de Beaulieu, ne continuez pas tout droit sur votre chemin sans faire un stop au Café Douceur pour prendre un lunch, un cafe ou un thé avec un goûter fait maison,

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You can judge from the photos that it has a warm atmosphere, welcoming and intimate. Everybody feels instantly at home which is no wonder, because Sophie, the owner and the chef of her café has a big heart and wide smile.

Ces photos montrent clairement l’ambiance chaleureuse, intime et conviviale. C’est normal, car Sophie, la petite propriétaire et la cuisiniére, dirige son café avec en grand coeur et un sourire pétillant.

 

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As a young girl, Sophie was enchanted by l’heure du goûter..(late afternoon tea in France). From then on, her dream was a little café where she could bake, serve and sell madeleines, canelés, sablés and other delicacies she grew up with around l’heure du gouter. At the young age of 24 she took the plunge and opened up Café Douceur, not regretting  one minute of her decision since.

Depuis son enfance, Sophie a été enchantée par l’heure du gouter. Son rêve était d’ avoir son propre petit coin pour partager cette passion. Les madeleines, les sablés, les cannelées..ce sont tous ces gourmandises qu’elle a savourée pendant son enfance et  qu’elle fait aujourd’hui elle-même. Dèja il y a quelques années, à 24 ans, elle a décidée de réaliser ce rêve en ouvrant  son propre café.

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La terrasse has a view on centre ville, where everything happens in Beaulieu and everybody knows everybody.

Sur la terrasse, on peut s’amuser en voyant tout ce que et ceux qui arrivent en centre ville de Beaulieu.

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In the image below is how she is frequently seen in la salle ..peeking around the corner from the kitchen to say hi and throw a smile at everybody.

Une image très typique…la chef cuisinière souriante  jette un coup d’oeil sur la salle pour dire un petit  bonjour à ses clients..Café Douceur de Sophie 17-06-2013 13-23-07 2522x3186

With tables and chairs as well as comfy canapés, wooden games and toys for kids, gentle colours, you are invited to take a seat, linger with a magazine and have a second coffee or tea.

On est invité à s’installer dans la salle pour l’ambiance conviviale. On oublie le temps sur un canapé soit avec un livre, soit on découvre les jouets anciens tout en attendant un deuxième café..ou thé.

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.. a little bouquet de fleurs at the lunch table..

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The meals coming from the kitchen are homemade by Sophie herself, using seasonal fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables, many coming from her own potager(vegetable garden).

Les plats arrivent de la cuisine  faits maison avec des produits saisonnièrs et les herbes fraîche, les légumes et fruits, quand possible, cueillis dans son propre potager.

..fraisier..

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..crépe complete et salade de jardin..

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..Tarte citron au sorbet exotique..

Café Douceur de Sophie 17-06-2013 13-47-40 3020x2751……………………………………………………………..

..Tarte pomme..

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La pate a brioche:

For a very large tart:  6 eggs, 350g melted butter, 750g flour, 30g yeast diluted in some lukewarm water, pinch of salt. The recipe can be divided by three or even 4 for a large family size tart.
  1. Add 117g yeast to 1 glass of warm water. Mix it into 250g  flour, a pinch of salt and  2 eggs.
  2. Cover an oven pan with baking paper.
  3. Spread the dough to an equal thickness on the paper. Leave aside in a warm corner to rise for about 30 minutes, while you prepare the apples.
  4. Peel and core 3 apples, cut into pieces and place into a casserole with some sugar, a few drops lemon juice , a few juniper berries, a pinch of salt. Simmer to reduce to a compote.
  5. Peel 2 to 3 more apples and slice. Drizzle with lemon juice.
  6. Spread the compote on the prepared brioche dough and arrange the apples slices on top.
  7. Top with sprinkled cassonade/vergeoise/brown sugar and dollops of butter.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes at 180 degr. C or until the apples are caramelized and the dough is cooked through.

………………………………………………….

La suggestion du moment changes every day, depending on season and availability of produce. This day had Papillote de saumon aux petits légumes (salmon parcels with vegetables)on the menu.

La suggestion du moment change quotidiennement selon la saison et les produits disponibles. Ce jour là…une papillote de saumon aux petits légumes.

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At the counter/bar, is always a lot of laughter and chatter going on..around a cup of coffee of course.

Autour du bar, toujours de la rigolade!

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Café Douceur de Sophie 17-06-2013 09-43-20 3821x3076  Café Douceur de Sophie 17-06-2013 09-39-42 4071x3264

So, next time you are in the vallée de la Dordogne, do make the effort to turn off to Beaulieu sur Dordogne and drop in to meet Sophie and Pascale and Michel and have a seat by the counter with a coffee, or on a couch with a magazine, or enjoy a light lunch at a table.

Alors. La prochaine fois que vous passez par la vallée de la Dordogne, faites demi tour et arretez-vous devant le Café Douceur en centre ville  pour fair la connaisance de Sophie, Pascale et Michel. Surtout, n’soyez pas pressés et restez un bon moment sur un canapé tout confortable!

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..à bientôt..

Ronelle


Walnut tart …and a marché aux plantes(plant market) at Curemonte.

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I decided to make a walnut tart, even though it is actually an autumn dish which we make when our walnuts are harvested after summer. But here, we eat it throughout the year, because we love it. Tout simple. That’s it.

Coming home from the marché aux plantes in Curemonte last week, with my confiture de noix and my chutneys and oils and vinegars and dandelion syrup under my arm, I thought it would be appropriate to make a walnut tart to accompany this reportage on the plant day at Curemonte. I’ve never made a walnut tart myself and it is only recently that I started eating it. I never thought it could be something special, until that one day that I took a slice at a friend’s house. It was delicious and it still is. It tastes like autumn. It is a rather heavy tart (which makes sense for fall and winter comfort), so I make it in a small tart tin, to have small slices…a good idea in any case for all tarts and cakes and goodies!

Our walnut trees are always late off the mark. They start off late in spring with these nice “flowers”, which are then rapidly followed by the leaves. With 4 huge trees, we always have a large supply of walnuts, perfect for Noël.

..tarte aux noix (walnut tart)..

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La recette:

*Pastry base: Recipe here.   Bake the pastry shell blind( without filling, but filled with dry baking beans to weigh down the pastry). Bake at 200 ° C for about 10 minutes. Remove the beans.

*Walnut filling:

  1. Crush 200 g walnuts, but not completely into powder. Keep some whole for decoration.
  2. Whisk 2 eggs and 70 g brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50 ml TBSP strong black coffee, 2 TBSP flour and 150 créme fraîche ( or thick cream). Mix gently together.
  4. Pour into the baked pastry shell and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with skewer and the tart is done when the skewer is removed clean when piercing the tart.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 TBSP of walnut liqueur.
  6. Leave to cool, decorate with dusted icing sugar and some whole walnuts and serve with some créme fraîche or whipped cream.

Serves 6 people

Une pincée de sel:

  • The brown sugar and coffee gives a nice dark colour to the filling; but the coffee can be omitted if desired.
  • For a winter tart, try adding some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or cacao instead of coffee.
  • Pecan nuts can be used instead.
  • Keep the portions small as it is a rich and heavy tart.
  • Make extra pasty for the base and keep in the freezer for another tart.

…defrosting the pastry for the base..

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...spring walnut branches..

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Marché aux plantes à Curemonte

Curemonte is a quaint little village, 10 minutes drive from us. This past week saw the annual marché aux plantes (plant market) at Curemonte, an occasion I look forward to every year. Not only do they have plants, but also food, artwork  and some bric a brac..a vide grenier. Everything sold and presented, is local. The bread is made locally, the beer is from the local brasserie, the plants and vegetables are local, the bees and honey, the walnut delicacies and walnut tarts are made locally , the wine is local and the vide grenier and brocante are from les Curemontais themselves.

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I love the country side, whether it is a French one or an American one or and English one. I prefer the ambiance and laid back ambiance of les campagnards, country folk..of which I am one of course. Strolling the small streets, peeking around each corner, stroking the dilapidated doors and windows, enjoying the laisser faire gardens( gardens just seem to happen by themselves, relaxed..). the world just comes to a standstill in the countryside where chatting to your neighbour is still a pleasure, almost an obligation and something that can even happen on the road, simply expecting traffic behind to wait..everybody waits. Beauty is all around you, simple, nothing is ostentatious. Glamor has no place in the countryside. Nature isn’t glamorous. It is simple. Honest. sometimes hard and challenging. Always beautiful. I thus hope I pass a bit of the beauty of Curemonte and its marché aux plantes on to you by these images.

curemonte collage 4 5120x4096..and plenty of food for hungry visitors; 8 euros for a plateau repas, which consisted of a glass of rosé wine, rillettes with bread for a starter, steak frites and cheese to finish..so simple, but so delicious in the atmosphere of camaraderie with people joining in at the long tables..

curemonte collage 2 5120x3544…a plate or a table, a bowl or a tea towel..just browse..

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..I found my bonheur(happiness)..

bol 1 4419x3076..and a lot of strolling

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..fascination comes in the form of dilapidated doors and shutters, railings, gates-my fettish..

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..à l’année prochaine..salut!(until next year, cheerio!)

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I hope you enjoyed this day with me in the French country side! I of course loved every minute of it and I relived it all by sharing it here with you.

until very soon( à trés bientôt!)

Ronelle

Ron


Biscuit de Savoie (cake)..and a handful of spring lilacs.

..biscuit de Savoie..

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My hens, tiny as they are, provide us with a plenitude of eggs. As if that is not enough, the two geese, Sidonie et Aglaé, add their daily quota as well. I donate eggs left and right and we still end up with a surplus! I don’t complain..an old Paysanne told me that laying hens are happy hens. So how can I deprive a happy poule from laying a happy egg?

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The goose eggs are perfect for baking. They are far too rich for eating on their own, too rich  even for an omelette or mixed with chicken eggs. Seeing that I have these basket fulls of goose eggs, I found this delicious Biscuit de Savoie that asks for 14 eggs. Yes, you read right – FOURTEEN eggs. It may seem expensive to you, but the cake is worth it. To me of course, it is a bargain, because I only dig into my basket for 7 goose eggs and I have a perfect cake. Mon chéri, who is not a cake lover, now asks for the 14- eggs-cake, as he calls it. I hope you try it…you will like it!

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La recette:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 °C.
  2. Separate the yolks and whites of 14 eggs into 2 bowls.
  3. Add 500g castor sugar and the seeds of 1 scraped vanilla pod to the egg yolks. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk/beat until stiff peak stage.
  5. Sift together 185 g Flour and 185 G Maizena(cornflour/cornstarch).
  6. Add 1/3 of the stiff egg whites to the creamed yolk and sugar mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites into the mixture, alternating with the sifted dry ingredients. Don’t over mix! Always stir/fold in by going in the same direction.
  7. Pour the batter into 2 buttered and flour dusted  cake tins of 26cm in diam. each. Fill the cake tins only 2/3 with batter, as the cake rises high while baking.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer is removed clean when piercing the cake.
  9. Leave to cool and dust with sifted icing sugar or top with a vanilla  butter icing.
  10. Serves about 8 people or more.

Une pincée de sel:

  • Remember that 2 large chicken eggs = 1 goose egg.
  • The lightness of the cake is due to the 14 beaten egg whites.
  • Fill the cake tins only 2/3 with the cake mixture..the cake rises high in the oven.
  • The cake is baked when a knife blade is retracted clean when piercing the cake.
  • From this recipe I get 2 cakes (26cm diam. and 24 diam.). Half the recipe to get only 1 cake of about 26 diam.
  • Use eggs at room temperature.
  • Flavour with almond essence instead of vanilla.
  • Dust only with sifted icing sugar, or top with a butter icing, or drizzle with a runny milk icing.
  • Replace the vanilla pod with a packet of vanilla sugar (7.5g) or a tsp of vanilla essence.
  • Serve (without the topping of butter icing) as dessert with strawberries, whipped cream and a strawberry coulis.

I am still old school. I love my metal cake tins. I have succumbed to the silicone stuff, but now I’m handing them all out as gifts and I am reverting back to my old tins, some of which still come from my mother. Maybe it is what happens when one gets older..you revert back to the things that once gave you joy, in spite of new trends and “fashionability”. By oiling my tins with butter and giving it a dusting of flour, sticking to the pan is not a problem. But of course..freedom of choice is what makes the world go round, so by all means use whatever you fancy!

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The biscuit de Savoie was adapted from the book Pâtissier, Petit Larousse.

…a handful of spring lilacs..

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Spring is awakening very slowly this year, causing the garden to be in a slow rising too. but nonetheless, colour is everywhere. The glycine (wisteria) is absolutely gorgeous in the gardens and of course, we all have lilas..of all colours. I only have the light lilac, of which the colour fades beautifully as it ages. And they fit into all pots and vases and tittles and cups. For tables and bathrooms and shelves and corners to enjoy to the full. They don’t last too long once picked, but for the day or two they provide me with such satisfaction and my barn house smells like spring, even on a cool rainy day! It is true. The biggest happiness comes in small doses.

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*Our little poulain (faul) is a week old today and getting just more cute by the day. If you would like to see some pics of her and her equally adorable maman, make a stop at  A spring poulain! on my blog Coin Perdu, to read and see how things went last Friday night with the birth! Very exciting, it was!

*Have a great Sunday tomorrow..I will be off to a brocante, make a stop at the jardinerie for some tomato plants and  do some weeding at home…

So, as always..

à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


Velouté de butternut..and footprints in the snow.

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“Un rideau de flocons blancs ininterrompu miroitait sans cesse en descendant vers la terre; il effaçait les formes, poudrait les choses d’une mousse de glace; et l’on n’entendait plus, dans le grand silence de la ville calme et ensevelie sous l’hiver, que ce froissement vague, innommable et flottant de la neige qui tombe, plutôt sensation que bruit , entremêlement d’atomes légers qui semblaient emplir l’espace, couvrir le monde.” Guy de Maupassant, boule de suif.

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“It was early autumn, then, before the snow began to fly. –(There’s an expression for you, born in the country, born from the imaginations of men and their feeling for the right word, the only word, to mirror clearly what they see! Those with few words must know how to use them.) Men who have seen it, who have watched it day by day outside their cabin window coming down from the sky, like the visible remorse of an aging year; who have watched it bead upon the ears of the horses they rode, muffle the sound of hoofs on the trail, lie upon spruce boughs and over grass – cover, as if forever, the landscape in which they moved, round off the mountains, blanket the ice in the rivers – for them the snow flies. The snow doesn’t fall. It may ride the wind. It may descend slowly, in utter quiet, from the grey and laden clouds, so that you can hear the flakes touching lightly on the wide white waste, as they come to rest at the end of their flight. Flight – that’s the word. They beat in the air like wings, as if reluctant ever to touch the ground. I have observed them coming down, on a very cold day, near its end when the sky above me was still blue, in flakes great and wide as the palm of my hand. They were like immense moths winging down in the twilight, making the silence about me visible.” – Howard O’Hagan Tay John

…Voilà coin Perdu in January! Quiet and silent behind its curtain of white…

neige 2013-023..Our barn, where we are living until the house is finished..

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..A view on the bench, where I dream and plan, except in winter. Then I dream and plan by the fire..

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..Forgotten socks …

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..and terracotta pots waiting to be cleaned..

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..Two adorable faces, waiting for fresh hay..

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..The Eiffle tower, a bit askew in the potager..

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..Old barrel rims, waiting to become arches in the potager..

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..The wine bottle rack, serving some different purpose every so often..

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..The road to la toilette requires snow boots..

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..”La toilette” in snow attire..

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..Velouté de butternut..

velouté de butternut 1Recipe:

  1. Clean and chop and onion and fry in some olive oil.
  2. Add some cleaned Butternut, cut into chunks.
  3. Cover with vegetable or chicken stock until vegetables are completely covered. simmer until very tender.
  4. Mix to a puree and put back on gentle heat.
  5. Add coconut milk to the soup according to your preference.. Season and leave to simmer gently on low heat for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the juice of 1 orange, season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve warm with freshly grated nutmeg and crusty bread.

So, on this quiet, hushed snow note, I leave you..

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Goodbye to an old friend..

This morning I said goodbye to a trusted old friend. We lived through the worst of times and through the best of times. She was a pillar and only now do I realize just how much she meant to me. When everybody else left , she stayed, ever willing to listen, giving without ever wanting something in return. Oh true, sometimes she drove me nuts! But when I needed her, she was there.

We spent a lifetime together. She was there when we raised our children in Tours, driving them to school every morning, picking them late afternoons on the dark winterdays. she knew the way to the trainstation where I dropped mon chéri off every morning and picked him up every evening. She kept me company while waiting at the deserted station in early morning hours when he had to stay late in Paris for meetings.  She knows every chateau in the Loire valley by heart.  We went to Venice for a quick 2 days holiday with the family. To Milan, to Verona. We drove to the north of France, to the South, to the ocean in the west,  to the mountains for the snow. We did plein air painting together and still have the oil paint stains to show for it. She is witness to many of my art failures, but also to my successes, carrying paintings to galleries and exhibits. She drove us to the emergency with cut open heads and arms and migraine attacks.

When we bought our Loire house, she was the one who helped us faithfully restore it. Without complaining, she patiently helped loading and transporting bags of plaster and cement and planks and ceilings and tiles and gravel without ever complaining.

One of our favorite pastimes was brocante browsing and she loved it as much as I. She kept me on the right track, making me rethink unnecessary purchases. Isn’t it too heavy, or too big…is it worth paying extra for delivery..?

There were many occasions where she got me safely to the vet with my beloved little chicken, Omelette, who was almost devoured by the dogs, my  lamb Marie-Meringue, who ate poisonous weeds.. our cats, who were poisoned..she never laughed or mocked me for going hysterical about a half eaten chicken which I want ed to save. She understood my fears, my tears, my anger. she witnessed them all, silently, without judgement. She was happy when I was happy and she was strong when I was weak.

She moved house for us and our daughters..to universities in Toulouse and then to Caen, and then to Paris and again to Toulouse and then to Corréze. Hooked up with remorques and loaded to the roof and beyond.

She came with us to Coin Perdu and continued being the friend she had always been. Here she became my best friend. We did everything together, sliding through the winter snowed-in roads, driving endlessly up and down for tools and material for the restoring the house. She was there for the marriage of our daughter. She drove to pick up guests at the airport, drop them off, take them sigh-seeing, transported chairs and food and clothes and people and  flowers.

Then one day she didn’t perform as usual. Her movements were heavy, lethargic, tired. But she still gave it her all. We pampered her with a day at the spa, but it was clear that she felt worn. Tired. We took shorter trips to have her rest more, to make it easier on her tired limbs.

And finally this morning I said goodbye to her. A better friend I could not have asked for. Our Peugeot 307, 12 years,  350 000 km.

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à bientôt

Ronelle


Old French story plates.

I call them story plates. Those who follow this site will know how much I love stories and storytelling. We all do, I’m sure. Why else would we read book after book, watch movies, read biographies, buy art..they all tell stories and we each interpret them in our own way. We see our own lives twisted in the words and images. Some of us are just more of a sucker for sentiment than others. I am one of those.

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These little plates that I find at the brocantes make me laugh, sometimes they are very simple, a poem, a line, a title, sometimes  razor sharp in irony, but they are always true to depicting the experiences and life of the moment, which is what makes a story, which is what history is made of, and which explains why a later generation is so taken with “old” and “antique” and “vintage”,  history and the ever popular French brocante.

I would like to share some of these story plates with you. Each time I use a plate, I laugh again at the story, even though I know them all by heart! They are every day plates and I am amazed at how I can sometimes be lifted up on a dreary day by just using one of these story plates.

N° 6, Mme Angot’s daughter: A later, more “modern” story plate:

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N° 12, En voyage: My first plate, bought many years ago,tells the joke/funny story of an old, distinguished gentleman taking the train and pulling the alarm, which had the train stop and all the police swarming to the train. Ever so innocent, he asked them why they stopped the train? He was sleeping and then took a bath and rang the alarm(bell) for some towels..!

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N° 5, Mauvaise farce (bad jokes): The story plates are usually in series and numbered in the series. This is the series about bad jokes… placing a bucket of water on a half opened door …

storyplates 2N° 11, Les déjeuners comiques(funny meals): This is my favorite little plate. it is so cunning! This one is titled Le déjeuner economique (cheap lunch).

storyplates 7-001N° 9, Rigolades(laughs): Then there are those plates which have the most beautiful borders, like this one and the following green plates. The little story is very simple. This series is called .

storyplates 9-001N° 4,  Les sports: I adore the border of this plate,it is so elegant. This series depict sports and of course ice skating on the frozen European lakes was a big pastime for men and women..I loved the clothes of the women of times gone by.. I just wonder how they got around on those skates…the way I fall definitely demands some trousers!

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Amusez vous bien en lisant ces petites histores et à bientôt!

Ronelle


Un Noël à la campagne 3: Topinambours and chestnut velouté with wild mushroom croutons.

The entrée (starter) for this menu is A topinambour (Jerusalem artichokes) and chestnut velouté with  wild mushroom croûtons. It has a wonderful woodsy flavor and finished off with a shaving of black truffle on the chanterelles mushrooms, it transports you into a winter forest.

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Recipe:

  1. Clean 1 onion and cut in slices. Fry the onion in a little olive oil until translucent.
  2. Clean 5 large Jerusalem artichokes, cut into small, even chunks  and add to the the onion.
  3. Add a tin of peeled chestnuts (210g)  to the mixture.
  4. Add a bouguet garni  and 350 ml water or stock (vegetable) to the vegetables and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Remove the bouquet garni and remove the soup from the heat. Add a handful of washed parsley and mix with an electrical hand mixer until the soup is creamy. If you want the soupy perfectly creamy, you can push it through a sieve.
  6. Add some cream, or stock, or milk to bring it to the right consistency (like thick cream). Season with salt and freshly milled pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.
  7. Serve warm with some freshly  grated nutmeg and a mushroom croûton.
  8. Mushroom croûton: Toast three thick slices of bread. cut into fingers and brush with truffle oil on all sides. Clean some some mushrooms of your choice with a brush and fry quickly in olive oil. Add some chopped parsley , season and place on top of the toast fingers. Finish off by placing two shavings of black truffle on the mushrooms and serve immediately with the soup.
  9. This soup can also be served as an amuse bouche, served in small glasses, with small fingers of toast.

Serves 4 people as a starter.

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Don’t add too much liquid in the beginning..you can always thin with some milk, or stock or water towards the end to the thickness you prefer.
  • Replace the mushrooms with plain button mushrooms or with crispy Spanish ham.
  • Replace the Jerusalem artichokes with pumpkin.
  • Toast the croutons in a toaster or dry toast in a pan to keep it light.
  • Finish the soup with a twirl of truffle oil.
  • Never wash mushrooms with water, clean them with a brush.
  • Fry mushrooms in a hot pan ..I prefer to fry mushrooms in duckfat(a little) which can be heated to very high heat without becoming toxic. Afterwards I drizzle a little Olive oil. In a hot pan, you don’t need much fat, because the mushrooms fry very quickly.
  • I don’t push the soup through a sieve, because I like the tiny pieces of parsley which gives a nice 3speckly” effect to the soup.
  • Enjoy.

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The Christmas market in Meyssac was very quaint and I especially loved the lovely church with its display of nativity scenes in all the alcoves. Each nativity scene depicted a country…Brazil was there, France of course, Italy, Africa. Even Peru was there, each little figurine dressed in typical clothing. I adored it and planned on going back to Meyssac to take pictures of all the scenes. When I finally went back, it was gone! Of course, it made sense..it was on display only for the weekend of the market..all those precious figurines couldn’t be left unattended for the whole season. I can kick myself! So I lost out on the lovely nativity scenes..you will have to wait until next year.

But the little église of Meyssac is still adorable and here are some photos…

…The exterior of l’église de Meyssac…

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..the interior towards the altar with Chrismas lights hanging above the aisle…

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..the altar from close up..

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..and the only nativity scene left for the season..

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..un lustre lighting up one of the many figurines the Catholics so love..

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  • Tomorrow will see the plat principal (main meal): Beef tournedos with bone marrow in a wine sauce and steamed vegetables.
  • A nice DVD to get you in a French vintage mood…La plus belle histoire des femmes.

.. alors, à demain!..

Ronelle


Easy and quick caramel squares..and December chronicles 3: Backstage.

Don’t you just love it when a recipe says in its first line..easy and quick? I definitely do! With these last three daily  posts, I had to think of very quick and easy but still delicious recipes and it being a time of nostalgia, this little recipe came to mind…It is not a stunner, but still a delicious little snack. It is even easy enough for young children to make….keeping them busy during the upcoming holidays.

My sister made this treat regularly so many years ago when she was living in her tiny apartement during university years. I loved visiting her on weekends with my parents, sure in the knowledge that this delicacy would be waiting in her fridge.  It is sort of one of those treats that was part of a certain era and then disappeared. It was great for students to make on their desks in their rooms, without the need for cooking facilities.

You need only 2 ingredients: 2 packets of butter biscuits and a can of caramelized condensed milk. If you live in SA or a country which has “tennis biscuits”, then that is exactly what you will use. It has a slight coconut taste and it absorbs the caramel nicely to go all tasty soft and flavorful. Here I used le grand petit beurre from St. Michel, which is a nice square shaped biscuit. I also used  confiture de lait by Bonne Maman (what will we do here in France without Bonne Maman?).

  1. Place two biscuits next to each other on a sheet of baking paper.
  2. Spread the caramelized condensed milk thickly over both biscuits.
  3. Place two more biscuits on top of the caramel layer.
  4. Continue until you have about 9 to 10 layers of biscuits.
  5. Close up tightly with the baking paper and wrap tightly(without crushing the biscuits!) in  tin foil.
  6. Leave overnight.
  7. Will keep about a week or even longer in an airtight container in the fridge.
  8. Cut in slices and serve with a coffee or tea.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Try using nutella instead of caramelized condensed milk.
  • The longer it stand, the better the flavor and softer the biscuits become.

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Backstage. If there is one thing we all have in common, it is that “fun” behind the scenes. But, I am unfortunately not Jacky Chan, so my behind the scenes will probably only have significance for me and no one else. It is a bit like the friend who comes back with  photos from Russia, taken with his expensive Canon and ten lenses, and entertains you with great enthusiasm to his hundreds of touristy cathedrals and fountains and bridges and museums, while your jaw aches from biting back your yawning. But just maybe seeing a bit of my backstage scenes, will have you run to your photos to remember your own backstage times with loved ones.

We are always in our total number represented in the kitchen, stretching over one another, reaching over heads for a tool, tasting, licking, nibbling, fighting. It is amazing the busyness only 4 people can cause in a kitchen..

These are truly precious memories..

Not everything that came out of the kitchen was that big a success, but that didn’t matter in the least..we made our flops together, that is what counts.

Even guests had to pitch in, and they did it with enthusiasm… for that reason I have plenty of tabliers(aprons).

One thing to be found in practically all our scenes, is the opening of oysters. It is the task of mon chéri. I will probably lose all my fingers, because I have never opened an oyster! and mon chéri and our youngest daughter always have to get into a dish cloth fight..in the kitchen!

We normally start off our evening of Réveillon with some vin chaud et apéritifs in the living room. then we start warming up and finish off our menu and seat ourselves at the table where an amuse bouche is awaiting us. I always have something ready at the table when guests seat themselves..it adds to the expectation and while everybody start eating their amuse bouche and have their wine poured and just simply settle at the table, it gives me the time to finish off the starter. Our entrée(starter) is plated in the kitchen.

After the starter, we bring the plat principal(main course) arranged on a large platter to the table, where we keep it warm over a flame. It is normally fish and a vegetable accompaniment, all arranged on one platter. We follow that up with a cheese board..

..and end of course our dinner with la piéce de résistance….le dessert! Byt that time, we are close to midnight,; which is the time we pass around our gifts. But before that, we go for a late pre-midnight walk..or rahter that is what we used top do in the Loire house – we went for a walk by the Loire, just to walk down some calories. On arriving back home, we warm ourselves by the fireplace,  make coffee and start opening up gifts..slowly, deliberately, lingering on each moment.

Christmas day followed about the same pattern, except that we ate earlier and afterwards we walked up to the DVD store and rented a DVD while we had coffee and chocolates a and fell asleep before halfway through the movie..

Thank you for sharing this trip down memory lane with me. If nothing else, I hope it took you on your own roads back, remember with tenderness all the good and I hope it inspires you to make many new memories this December and note them down, either in words or in pictures.

Merci et à bientôt!

Ronelle


Quick fleur de sel grissinis..and Past Decembers, chronicles 2: tables.

I like to nibble on a grissini with a glass of wine. It prevents the wine making me do stupid things.. Or dunk it in a cup of tomato soup, a gazpacho.. But frankly, the store bought grissini are awful. No matter how expensive or grand they are. They taste like compacted paper. Maybe you agree. Then you might enjoy this recipe which is so easy and so quick and so delicious and has absolutely nothing to do with compacted paper!

The recipe is so easy, I can do it in only two sentences…

  1. Unroll a sheet of puff pastry and cut into strips of about 15mm and divide each strip into two short strips. Brush the flat strips with one beaten egg.
  2. Take each strip at the ends and twist while you stretch a little at the same time . Place on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with fleur de sel, freshly ground pepper and crushed red pepper berries.
  3. Place under grill for 8 minutes until golden, remove from the oven, turn them over, return and grill for another 8 minutes until golden.
  4. Remove and leave to cool.
  5. Can be stored in an airtight container for a week.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on the flat strips, before twisting them. In which case you have to check your addition of salt, because the Parmesan is already very salty.
  • Use other interesting salts..vanilla salt, sea salt, saffron salt(see photo of ingredients), maldon salt…
  • Use some seeds of your choice. I’m not too fond of seeds like poppy seeds, which has no taste whatsoever and only embarrassingly sticks in between your teeth..
  • Take care not to over bake your strips so they too indeed become compacted paper.
  • Serve with a glass of wine or champagne or soup,  in summer with a cold gazpacho.
  • Sprinkle with sugar for something to serve with dessert or a champagne in summer.
  • Bake only with brushed olive oil and when out of the oven, still warm, sprinkle liberally with icing sugar.
  • Brush with melted butter for more flavor instead of olive oil.

..ingredients..

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As is the case all over the globe, December is family time. A time to snuggle in front of fires or laze on beaches and close to Christmas, we get together with families to open tins of cookies and traditional foods and drinks. Of course. It is Christmas. A time to remember. A time to forgive and forget. A time for peace..there is a song that says it all…

Its a time for giving, a time for getting,
A time for forgiving and for forgetting.
Christmas is love, Christmas is peace,
A time for hating and fighting to cease..”

Mistletoe and wine -Cliff Richard

Getting together with families, whether only one or ten, we do it around tables and food than matter to us. After all, food is more than just nourishment for our bodies. It also feeds our senses.  Our  sensitive souls. Yes, a soul is a sensitive thing, we fight and cry and love with our souls.When we sit around a table and taste our apple pie, we remember our parents, our childhood, our children. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry. It is all good. We are feeding our souls.

Like the Chronicles 1 I have decided to also show our family tables, because it has now changed too…our Christmas table for the last 7 years at home  has seated only  our small family of 4. We have now grown to a wonderful 6 around the table! An exciting new chapter!

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I’ll leave you in peace to browse if you like or skip top the bottom if you don’t.

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  • More photos of Decembers past can be seen in my gallery on the sidebar..Joyeux Noël.
  • Music to add to your December playlist..Une Nuit à Versailles – Vanessa Paradis. I am quite the fan. Sure, there are some songs I skip, but mostly I enjoy them all. this is her  4th live album..hope you enjoy. Here is one of the songs..Il Y A
  • Tomorrow I will see you with the last walk through memory lane… Easy caramel squares..and Chronicles III, backstage.

à plus!

Ronelle


Goat’s cheese and caramelized apple salad.. and ochre abundance.

Once again, I had to scratch my head to think of a recipe that would accompany the stunning ochre colours of fall. Of course not only in colour, but also in taste, spirit, ambiance..Of course..cheese. I can’t believe I haven’t shared this simple salad yet. It can be  manipulated and changed according to the seasons and is always a winner with its warm toast, cheese and apple and fresh green salad.

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Place the apple rounds and goat’s cheese on toasted bread before putting under the grill.
  • Take care to slice your apples, bread for toast and cheese more or less the same size.
  • Use slices of Camembert instead of goat’s cheese.
  • Use pears or quince instead of apples.
  • Use brown sugar to caramelize the pears or quince instead of honey and serve with a helping of quince jam/jelly.
  • Play around and make your own combinations to serve a melted cheese and apple/pear/quince salad.

..stillife  nicked by a chicken..

..stillife with Royal Gala apples..

..walnut oil, walnut vinegar, raspberry vinegar, truffle vinegar..

Our fall colors have only now really reached their peak and the ochres are in abundance. I don’t have much to say, except that nature is at the moment an explosion of magnificence..

à la prochaine!

Ronelle


Chocolat mendiant tart..and brown to cream inspiration.

I am very rarely inspired by a recipe. It almost never happens happens that I eat something great and I want the recipe. Of course I enjoy it, but my true inspiration to create a recipe  comes from “things” of everyday life. At the moment I am inspired by colour. Every day as  I watch nature, I witness colours deepen and darken, fade and disappear. I am mesmerized by the dark of wet wood.. the doors, the windows, the wood piles along the country roads ready for winter fires, the deep beiges of dry fields, the soft creams of the sheep grazing the green hills..and then I remember that recipe  saw in a magazine, or the one I tasted at a friends home, and I’m inspired to create the same. This time –  A chocolate mendiant tart I saw in a magazine at the hairdresser. I can’t remember the magazine, or theexact ingredients, except for the addition of the Nutella and the icing sugar roasted nuts. And yes, the chocolate colour perfect to accompany the browns I see around me. And the taste..perfect for the cold rainy days..or any other day!

Une Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • I used orangettes(candied orange strips). See crystallized orange strips how to make them. It is worth making them yourself to buying those tasteless ones in the supermarket.
  • Other dried fruits I used: Dried figs cut in slices and dried cranberries.
  • Nuts I used: Freshly shelled walnuts and pistachios.
  • I didn’t use a sweet pastry, because the chocolate is sweet enough.
  • This dough is enough for 2 tarts. I always make a double quantity so I have a spare pastry ready to roll out in the freezer.
  • Consider using this pastry recipe..Omit the cheese, thyme and peppercorns in the recipe. It is much more buttery, delicious of course, but also  richer.
  • Leave the tart/tartlets to stand for a day to develop flavor.
  • It is important to leave the dough to rest. I always leave my dough overnight, it prevents shrinking. This time I was too hurried and in the photo you can see the result..shrinkage!

..an old dilapidated, but charming door contrast beautifully with white stone walls..

..typical Corréze country-with light cream stone houses and dark roofs, dark shutters, rusted barn equipment, nestling in the green hills..

green Corréze hills with brown soil prepared for new fields, dry cornfields of the past season and stark, late autumn trees..

..happy, creamy white sheep roaming the green hills..

..two friends, a familiar Corrézien sight..

 ..this is a time of year I love to sketch. At the moment, I am truly inspired by the browns and the shapes, especially those of leaves, branches and everything else I find on my walks..

..the stacks of wood ready for the fast approaching winter..


Rustic pumpkin tart with onions and goats cheese.. and autumn gives us umber and sienna.

Autumn asks for rustic food. Because some days are sunny and mild, meals can still be enjoyed outside and as such a homey, rustic meal can add warmth and cosiness. A rustic meal also falls in step with the colours of the season, as the pumpkin tart shows. So what can be better than being right in the spirit of the season!

***Errata: 3. PASTRY: .. “Use a bit MORE water if too dry and add more flour if needed…”

Une pincée de sel:

  • Sweet potatoes are just as good instead of pumpkin..treat the sweet potatoes the same way.
  • Use wholewheat flour instead of plain flour.
  • Drizzle some herb honey over the pumpkin just before serving, or caramelize the pumpkin with some honey.
  • Make individual servings of tartlets instead of one large tart.
  • Use leeks instead of red onion.

..ingredients..

..and autumn gives us umber and sienna..

When I think of winter  think of black and white, grey, mystery, design.. Spring makes me think of flowery pinks, blues, lavenders, whites..In summer it is the exuberance of reds and yellows,  that come to mind…  Autumn gives us siennas and umbers, rich, embracing us with its warmth. I always think that it is the season for artists.

I wish you a lovely artist’s season!

à bientôt

Ronelle


Quince crumble with orange and ginger..and bistrot flavor.

Quinces are bistro food…either in the form of jams and jellies or simmering on the stove for a compote or in the oven as a side dish. In season, freshly picked from the garden, on the market, they are on all the bistro menus for as long as the season lasts. And a crumble says it all. Comfort, warmth, flavor, senses, laughter, friends, cosiness, delicious.. a few words to capture a quince…and  a bistrot.

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Boil the seeds and inner core along with the dice of quince – it flavors the mixture ant thickens the syrup.
  • Replace the ginger with cinnamon if you don’t like ginger.
  • Make smaller ramequins of crumble and serve as part of a plate of three dessert.
  • Use apple with quince.

..whipped cream, slice of orange and a ramequin of crumble..

..ingredients..

..Bistro flavor..

Life is a ratatouille, a blanquette, a bourguignon. It is a tartelette, a crumble, a millefeuille… life is a bistrot. No Michelin star restaurant, or any well known chef or trendy novelty or brocante can capture French life like le bistro. It is the place  we  go for our lunch or dinner because it feels like home. It is the place we go for our café, because that is where our friends are.

..bistrot at Coin Perdu..

We depend on the chef of le bistro to entice us with le plat du jour, or better yet, le menu du jour, where we sit back with a carafe of house wine and wait for our entrée et plat, or plat et dessert. The menu for the day mostly consists of either a starter and main course OR main course and dessert. Of course written on the blackboard, since the menu of the day follows the season! So never trust a bistrot without a blackboard!

.. plat du jour at Coin Perdu…

Bistrot life is just in my blood I guess. I love my coffee and croissant. Freshly squeezed orange juice. Pierrot gourmand. I love the simple French home kitchen where life is about family, friends and food. Around a bistrot table, discussion is always about the food. Of course other subjects are touched, but the food is always an obvious point of discussion…”is it delicious, or not so good today? Too much salt on the salmon? Too little butter in the sauce? Is the housewine good with the bourguignon? Is this year’s November Beaujolais better than last year..?”

..also called café des artistes..

I love the typically bistrot serviette, which speaks of the simplicity, but warmth of the French home kitchen. Simplicity doesn’t mean uninteresting or plain or boring, on the contrary. The French kitchen is filled with the exiting freshness of each season, whether it is in setting the table or making a soup or serving a Paris-brest. Frou-frou is left to the stage at Moulin rouge..in the bistro kitchen the soul is naked and simple..honest and true.

..des serviettes de mon bistrot..

I love La place, where a bistrot is always nestled between tables and chairs, people and fountains, pigeons and dogs of all colors. It is a place where the placid passing by of the morning makes way for the clutter of knives and forks, the clinking of glasses and loud chatter of happy eaters at midday.

..and outside we’ll find la place du café..

Some of my most favorite Bistrot books, which I know almost by heart from reading them again and again. They can be found on amazon.fr.

..Esprit bistrot..

..”Lotte de Bretagne piquée au chorizo, risotto façon paella”-Bruno Doucet à La Regalade

et bistro L’Ami Jean..

..Bistrots de chefs à Paris..

..Cyril Bourlois – bistrot  Aux vieux comptoir..

..Simplement bistrot- Yves Camdeborde..

..La tarte fine aux pommes – Yves Camdeborde

..Bistrot; autour et avec les recettes du Paul Bert – Bertrand Auboyneau et François Siumon..

..l’cailler du bistrot et une serveuse..

..Un café à la campagne – Christophe Lefébure..

..to the left: Chez Baudy à Giverny, where American artists gathered at the turn of the XIX and XXth centuriesto be in the presence of Monet..and ancient cafés to the right..


Autumn in Amsterdam..and a lamb tajine.

Once again, a great time spent on my feet. This time round I spent my days leisurely strolling around. Gone are the days I fly on my feet and hyperventilate to catch all museum doors open. Now I simply enjoy the different culture which I find myself in for a few days, the different lifestyle and the habits of the pedestrian passing me by, and I fall in with each moment as it presents itself. And I still have a lot of fun..like getting lost.

I thought I knew Amsterdam by now, but I got so lost this time I almost ended up in Antwerpen! I walked for 2 hours before admitting I am lost and then spent almost another 2 to get out of my predicament and to some familiar ground. I have a good sense of direction(usually) and very  rarely use a map and I have (usually) some great experiences with getting a bit  lost. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those occasions where one falls upon treasures on your lost road, on the contrary, it was a bit challenging. Maybe because it started getting dark and the streets I wandered started getting empty, or maybe because I saw so many black dogs lying outside the doors, or could it be the barred doors and windows I passed? With a dead phone battery and a very fertile imagination I continued walking. When I saw a young woman with a black Doberman on a leash, I decided this was my saving line..I followed her, not having the slightest idea where she was going, but I hoped if something happened, maybe she would unleash that black dog. I also had the good hope that she would get me to a less scarier corner. It worked.  Following her brought me back to where I could at least see the church tower and I started breathing easier again.

By that time, my feet burned from wearing winter shoes my feet aren’t used to yet, I was hungry and thirsty and exhausted from visualizing the end of my life. A tiny Turkish eating corner and its beautiful young owner with her long dark black hair came to my rescue. I plonked my tired body into one of her chairs and ordered a chicken tajine with yellow rice and dried fruits and beetroot and a large glass of mint tea. That was the best meal I’ve ever had and I could see a future ahead of me again!

So, in commemoration of that wonderful reviving tajine, here is my version of it…delicious if I may say so myself..or maybe it lies in the memory..

..Tajine d’agneau(lamb tajine)..

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use whichever meat you prefer, just adjust the cooking time. White meat like chicken cooks quicker than red meat like lamb and beef.
  • ALWAYS brown your pieces of meat before making a stewing dish..it enhances flavor.
  • Don’t drown your meat with liquid when braising. Adding a little liquid thorough the cooking time makes for a more flavorful and thicker, caramelized sauce.
  • Add fruits towards the end if you want whole pieces of fruit in your meal. Adding them earlier will break up the fruit and thicken and naturally sweeten the sauce
  • A tajine served the next day is even better in flavor. Just add a little water to reheat because the sauce thickens when standing.

Everybody knows Amsterdam for its tulips and canals and of course bicycles. And so, like all tourists, I also took some typical touristy shots, depicting Amsterdam in its daily habit. Of course there is much more to a buzzing city like Amsterdam apart from its colorful dress code. There is its poverty and illness, its age and constructional city problems, the crime and simply mean people, as I’ve had the misfortune of discovering.

..My soup bench and the surprise element..

But there is also the surprise element like when I was taken aback by a young man, staggering towards me and my soup on a bench(above). With a half empty bottle in his one hand and a full one in the other, he asked me in Dutch for a cigarette; I shook my head and pulled up my shoulders, suggesting I don’t understand. He switched to English and again I shrugged my shoulders. Being convinced he would understand no word of French, I answered him and satisfied with myself, I turned my attention to my soup. In perfect French, he addressed me again and even paid me an askew compliment, while holding out his hand to me in greeting.  I almost swallowed my soup cup. What are the odds of a street bum speaking 3 languages fluently? Of course I had to take his sweaty hand in acknowledgement of him checkmating me in my own game.

..Pompadour chocolates and coffee..

I frequently stopped r for so,something to drink, which would be either a coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice. And it hit me how the little coffee shops differ so immensely from ours here in France. It could be anything from only one tiny table to a single wooden bench or a row of cushions. This is  what I wanted to capture.

..Royal bagels and muffins..

..Greenwoods, with everything and anything..

..A single bench at LEF..

..Cushions and blankies at Kaldi..

..So many, many more coffee shops to choose from..

I skipped on museums this time, but I visited many an art gallery..some highly expensive, some interesting and some plain boring. But there is sure something for everyone. And with capturing a little of the art here in Amsterdam, I couldn’t resist being a little kitschy in introducing a bicycle sweeping by in front of my lens…now that was fun!

Of course Amsterdam isn’t Amsterdam without its bulbs. I carried somewhat heavy on my plastic bag all the way back to Coin Perdu, where they await their planting. Bulbs, bulbs and bulbs..will they grow?

..Bulbs and bulbs and bulbs..

Too soon I had to say goodbye to my new friends and head back home. But there is always the prospect of seeing them again..I wonder what experiences will await me then..

..dear friends..

..à bientôt..

Ronelle


A fairytale French wedding.

When asked which is her favorite princess in a fairytale, Marinell always says Belle, from Beauty and the beast. On 15 September she really was Belle and she had her handsome blue eyed prince and her castle..and they danced in the sunset on “La vie en rose”, their own fairytale.

..Chateau du Doux..

(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)

..on the staircase in the chateau..

(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)

..in the library of the chateau..

(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)

Both the bride and groom wanted a traditional wedding, from the word go. The challenge was to incorporate the traditions of three different cultures. As time passed and planning was done step by step(mostly by themselves), it all naturally fell into place. The finished result was a good and fun mix of 3 cultures and even the hands that helped stretched over continents; friends and family from SA to Australia, friends and family from the UK and of courseall those good friends from France. Everyboldy pitched in happily… preparing salds for the Friday evening’s barbecue, roaming the forest for ferns and moss and branches, loading and unloading tables and chairs and pots and urns, stripping leaves from ferns for confetti, arranging flowers, setting tables, folding napkins, sweeping floors, making coffees, taxying people from the airport…and finally we all sat down together for dinner in a candle lit room, surrounded by happy chat and laughter. This is exactly how I wanted their day to end. Happy.

..flowers in the church of Le Pescher..

..”supposed” to be singing..

..signing..

..confetti made of Ferns we picked in our forest at Coin Perdu and many hands helped strip the leaves..

..confetti-time..

..Now where are you off to..?

..Resting on the bridge after walking with everybody through the little village of Le Pescher..

Like every mother, I was highly excited about this wedding of our first daughter.And like every mother, a little afraid too: of the costs, of not staying out of it( very hard!), of not being able to help them live their dream, of not being able to make the day only joyous and happy.To keep the costs down we did everything ourselves and worked quite hard, I did indeed succeed in staying out of it(sometimes), and it was a beautiful joyous and happy day on which they truly lived their dream by saying “I do”

..Striped paper straws for old fashioned coke bottles,  mailbox for letters, signing the guestbook, pouring oil into torches, lanterns and chandelles..

..Flowers, urns  and sitting corners in the garden..

Pampilles(crystals), hanging from tree branches – to find your seat..

..some fun in the garden..

..Twirling ladies..

(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)

..A first dance to Edith Piaf’s “La vie en rose”..

..Two pretty smiles..

(photo: W van Wyk)

..the dining room is ready..

..table decorations: moss and ferns and foliage from our forest at Coin Perdu; hydrangeas and grey foliage from the garden with accents of chardon and Chrysanthemum and camomiles among lanterns and some silver for sparkle.

..Entering for dinner..

(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)

..Bon appetit et bonne nuit!..

à bientôt!

Ronelle

***Photos: All images Ronelle van Wyk, unless otherwise stated.

***I have just recently started a Facebook page, which I call Café des artistes. It is an extension of my three blogs and on it I do exactly what one would do in a café around coffee..talk about art and life and food and photography..if you are interested in some of these short snippets, you can find my link in the sidebar to join. You will also find more photos of the wedding on my facebook page..as always, Ronelle


Papillons d’ete(summer butterflies) and a wedding.

I have been like these butterflies the last few weeks…fluttering left, right and center! Our eldest daughter’s wedding is a week from today and I’m in top gear, working to get everything done. Truth be told, up until now most of the organizing had been done by the two themselves. My work only really started these last few weeks and being true to my very bad self, I left everything until the very last minute, which now means a mean scuffling of  feet to be on top of things. But I’m almost there…on top of things!

..Inachis Io(Paon du jour) Peacock butterfly..


..Mellicta athalia..

Every now and then I get distracted by my animals or the garden…the flowers, the vegetables and my potager, a coffee…before finding my rhythm again to move along with wedding stuff. One such a pleasant distraction was the seductive butterflies in my summer garden.

.. le petit nacré (Issoria lathonia) ..

..Iphiclides podalirius – scarse swallowtail (le flambé)..

..la belle dame (Vanessa cardui)..

..(papillons satyrinae (satyre)..

..Colias alfacariensis (Fluoré)..

..papillon feuille..

A last sip of cool and calm Provencal Rosé at sunset with mon chéri before friend and family start arriving from tomorrow onfor the wedding. And so with these images of my summer butterflies here at Coin Perdu and two cold glasses of Rosé, I leave you until I resurface after the wedding!

..à bientôt..

Ronelle


French Pierrot Gourmand bonbons et sucettes(lollipops)

Et voila…M Pierrot Gourmand, as promised!

We love our apéro (apéritif) before dinner. It can be many things and always quick and easy. Only with visitors do I try to do something more “travaillé” more elaborate. But most of the time it will be fresh tomatoes with some mozzarella, or a bowl of home marinated olives, or melted Camembert and baguette slices, or carrot sticks with vinaigrette dip, or brushcetta… These little tomato cocktails are very popular. Fresh from our tomato vines, they are dipped in caramel and in poppy seed and stuck into Pierrot and served with cold Provencal Rosé wine on the patio while Mon Chéri prepares his fire for our dinner… this is of course in summer where one can’t be anywhere else but outside!

Suggestions:

  • Dip the caramelized tips into any finish of your choice: dessicated coconut for a tropical touch; toasted seame seeds, finely chopped basil, or mixed fresh herbs; gremola; chopped dried tomatoes flakes, milled peppercorns, chopped nuts of your choice…
  • Don’t make the caramel too dark or else it will taste burnt.
  • Use wooden lollipop sticks for an authentic feel or use toothpicks and serve on wooden beard.
  • Serve with cold white or Rosé wines along with a bowl of torn and seasoned buffalo mozzarella pieces.

The birth of Pierrot Gourmand:

At the end of the XIXth century, the famous actor Debourreau created and played his own pantomime on the melody of  “Au clair de  la lune“. The personage Pierrot inspired Adolphe Willette, an artist to create a poetic Pierrot. He was referred to as “le Pierrot de Montmartre“. In 1892 Monsieur Everard of Everard and Herbert industries gave birth to a marquette of Pierrot sitting on the moon, offering bonbons to children.  And so Pierrot Gourmand was born.

The first lollipop was invented by Everard in 1924, made of barley sugar, fruit flavors, cola and caramel and shaped in the form of a spear head. The milky caramel was the first flavor on the market. Up until today Pierrot Gourmand lollipops still exist in both the round and original spear head shape.  With a production of over 2000 tons of candy per year, the fifties was regarded as the golden years for Pierrot Gourmand. Today it is part of the Agro-industriel-andros group, well known for its Andros jams and juices.

More reading on Pierrot gourmand:

* Adolphe Willett, the Pierrot of Montmartre.

*   “Souvenirs d’une p’tite Parisienne“.

Pierrot Gourmand, un siècle de création sucrée », Cherche Midi Editeur

..à bientôt mes amis!..

Ronelle


Ambiance – Art et Décoration magazines and books.

I am preparing a post on Pierrot Gourmand, our very popular and well known “clown” associated with lollipops and ‘bonbons’ here. While I am/was busy writing and making lollipops and driving everywhere to photograph Pierrot and his lollipops all over town, I ran into a book which found it’s way(all on its own, believe me) into my basket(that one that fills up far too quickly in a book store…!). Jardins a vivre, from Art et Décoration. Since my post on “cher Pierrot” is taking quite long,  I thought I would share some images of this book and of two others,  with you in the meantime. I don’t know if they are available in English, because it is books based on the magazine, Art et Décoration, a French magazine I’ve been buying for more than 16 years, on and off. Apart from my most favorite magazine Campagne Décoration, which was born in 2000 and of which I haven’t missed a single issue since 2001, Art et Décoration is the magazine I’ve been buying the longest, albeit sporadically…browse through it in the store and then decide if it has enough tips to own it. But more about Décoration Campagne later, let’s talk about Art et Décoration for now.

The latest trend for magazines is to capture their articles and particularly the images into hard bound  pretty coffee table books. Art et Décoration did exactly that. Very nice books to browse, have on your coffee table or fall asleep with!

So, let’s indulge in some of the magnificent images from the three following books:

1. Jardins à vivre;  Karine Villame, Collectif; Massin

..a rustic shower by the pool..

crédits photograpiques: B. Boigontier

…a rustic garden gate…

crédits photographiques: A Réty

..a water feature with an oeil de boeuf..

crédits photographiques: P. Smith

*******************************************************

Recevoir; Art et decoration; Massin

…entertaining in the garden under the “tonnelle”…

Crédites photographiques: B. boigontier.

…open kitchen with a “piano  La Cornue“…

Crédits photographiques: B. Boigontier

…entertaining on the terrace…

Crédit photographique: B. Boigontier

****************************************************************

Maisons de famille,  Karine Lalbatry; Massin

I love the chapter on the “marquises” over the doors. Just a little protection from the rain without having a whole veranda or entrance.

crédit photographique : O. Hallot

..bathroom with “paniers” for storage…

crédit photographique: C Erwin

..simply decorated bedroom with clean lines…

crédit photographique: P. Binet

…courtyard with old stables turned into bedrooms…

crédit photographique: P. Smith

………………

I hope you enjoyed this short tour with me.

Other books from Art et décoration:

*Recup & brocante; Karine Villame, Collectif; Massin.

*Maisons de Provence; Art et Decoration; Massin

Until we meet next time with a succette(lollipop) and Pierrot Gourmand!

Ronelle


Comment problems on WordPress and images to lift my spirit!

Apparently there has been some changes on WordPress concerning their comments and now I have problems whereas I never before had ANY problems! All comments are now asked to sign in with a WordPress account or Facebook or Twitter or Gravar accounts to be able to comment!I apologize for this ridiculous problem. I have no solution at the moment. All I can suggest, is that you click the LIKE button if you are unable to leave a comment, or send me an email to rvanwykatfreedotfr. Hopefully WordPress will realize that this change is a huge mistake! I have always boasted with WordPress being a GREAT host, I even changed from Blogger a few years back and never regretted one minute. I am not a whiner/ranter, but at the moment I am not a happy camper…

I would like to know how severe this problem is…if you have a moment to spare, please leave me a comment…just say “test without WP” so I can know that you were able to comment without a WordPress account. If not possible, please send me an email to rvanwykatfreedotfr.  Thank you and pleeaase don’t leave me…I SO love all your little stories, whether in an email reply or comment or Facebook/Twitter…I always love it!

I’m indulging in a few of my older images, which will hopefully lift my spirit and I hope you enjoy!

..bathroom curtains..

..reflections..

..door to atelier..

..garden tools..

..laurier..

..rusty milk can..

..urn..

..ray of light..

..garden chair..

..à bientôt

Ronelle


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