Montlouis sur Loire

Ambiance – Old bonbon jars.

I think the majority of people will never have enough storage space in the kitchen. I am no different. I’m also a firm believer of “out of sight, out of use” which means everything in my kitchen is in plain sight, ready for the taking. You can see some images of our Loire home kitchen here). But it means mean that  a lot of stuff can lie around in every nook and corner. And that of course…I hate too! It is always those small “tools” lying around in drawers that work on my nerves. So I prop them in old glass jars that I bought at the brocante, at the same time functional and nice to look at. The same goes for old apothecary jars, which I can unfortunately not show, since they are stored at the Loire house in Motlouis. They are SO beautiful!!you can see one filled with old porcelain pieces I pick up(bottom right image) These are old bonbon jars can now also be bought new, as reproductions from recycled glass, with the words engraved...bonbons, café, chocolats. Imagine how nice they would look on your shelves filled with petits gateaux over Christmas time, chocolats at Valentine or Oeufs de Pâques eggs during Easter? Any other sturdy glass jar can work too, just figure it big enough so you don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar!

..old glass bonbon jars and an old apothecary jar(the bottom right picture, left jar on the shelf)..

*Because it is still winter and too cold to hold a book …a movie with which you can cuddle up completely covered by blankets…Rabbit hole with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart and directed by john Cameron Mitchell (2010). The story of a couple coming to terms with the loss of their son.

…Rabbit hole…

…bon weekend…

..from the bonbon girl..


Ambiance – doormat for a trivet

There are no rules in this world. Ok, maybe a few. In the kitchen it is no different. Not even fun is imposed on us by a rule. Is cooking in your kitchen on a Wednesday evening fun, when you are tired and would rather have someone make you a sandwich? Yes?  Well, not for me. There are those times that cooking is just not fun. But that isn’t what I want to talk about. Maybe next time.

I’m telling you there aren’t any rules constraining us to use a vase for flowers. Or a chair for sitting. Or a kettle for boiling water. Or a doormat for wiping our feet.

..mint in a kettle…

Feel free to use a metal doormat for a large trivet next to the stove. Easy and handy for a heavy pot to lift from stove to trivet an large enough for more than one pat and pretty enough to please the eye in the kitchen.

No rules. Only freedom. Imagination. Guts.  Do you have it?

…trivet alias doormat…

Have a rebellious weekend!

à bientôt

from  Ronelle alias la revolusioniste


Red lentil, carrot and pancetta soup.. and a garden in February.

Garden work starts around February. It is trimming of the roses and lavenders and planting fruit trees and just general cleaning up of the garden. As it is still cold even though it is is uplifiting to fiddle in the garden, a nice thing to come back to inside the house, is a warm soup! This soup is one of the nicest lentil soups, in my mind…unpureed, thick and great with the subtle flavor of the fried pancetta ham.  It is very quick and easy and very tasty. It even beats the lentil/red pepper soup I usually make.

  1. Heat some olive oil in a big casserole pot. Fry 10 slices of pancetta, torn into pieces. Add 2 chopped shallots, 3 sticks of chopped celery, 2 diced carrots. Cook together for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add about 200g of red lentils along with 3 cups of vegetable stock.
  3. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes over gentle  heat until the lentils and carrots are tender.
  4. Remove from the heat and add one TBSP of tomato paste and some lemon juice to taste.
  5. Season with salt and freshly milled pepper.
  6. fisnish off with some freshly chopped parsley leaves.
  7. Serve warm.

Serves 4 people

Suggestions:

  • The soup can be served as a starter if you have a light meal.
  • Use smoked bacon instead of pancetta.
  • Add 2 chopped tomatoes for a more watery  soup.
  • Add more stock or less, depending on how thick you want your soup.
  • Stir in a TBSP of cream at the end for a heavier, creamier soup.
  • The parsley can be replaced by freshly chopped coriander.
  • The soup is even better the day after.

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The month in a year that I like the least, is January. I’m an ostrich and I hide my head, hoping no one will see me. Or I’m a bear, hybernating and I’m mean when disturbed. But I’m also the seed lying and waiting to push through the cold and the wet soil and bloom in the first rays of  sunshine. When February hits, I’m usually back among the living, with a strong desire to be outdoors. We have had some beautiful days in February and the garden is winking at me. When wandering through the February garden, there are small delights which makes a colorless Tourangelle  garden in February beautiful in its own way.

“L’hiver, c’est la saison du recueillement de la terre, son temps de méditation, de préparation.” – Lionel biosseau (winter is the time for the earth to meditate and prepare itself.)


All things cold and wintry, with emtpy potager cloches  and emtpy watering cans, a dry lemon verbena whcih awaits some sun to push its leaves and 2 pretty pebbles from La Loire to add some ambiance in this “jardin en Fevrier”.

The rosehips are starting to show signs of weariness and fatigue, the monnaie du pape and dry hydrangeas are delicate in their white paper thin petals and in stark contarst with the dark berries of the “gloire de versailles”- Cyanothus.

The buddleia already has new growth on its woody stems, the hellebores are flowering in white clumps close to the dark wet soil, while the faithful Italian Arum sees to lush green vegetation in the garden, perfect to pick and stick into a vase along with a hellebore flower.


The rouge gorges et charbonnieres et mesanges charbonnieres feed happily on the fruit balls and seed bowl hanging under the arch and the chickens enjoy the freshly turned over soil.


A lot of green moss on the terrace and stairs and around pots, while the rustic old chains that my husband so patiently aged for me, just gains more charm as the winter turns into spring.

Upturned terracotta pots everwhere in the garden, for protection and for housing/hybernating of “friendly” insects like the Forficule(earwig).

And of course…leaves and leaves and leaves!

Few things compare to enjoying that first  drink outside and munching on some clementines, even though you have to jump up and down to keep warm!

The gargoule fountain is quiet, as are several corners in the garden.

Next time I’ll tell about my seeding and planting process in my brand new potager(vegetable garden) at Coin Perdu, our farm in Correze,  the espalier of fruit trees I plan and just life in general in a March garden. We’ll be going to Coin Perdu more and more from now on, so much of the garden stories will happen there, where everything is still bare and new and in the raw!

a la prochaine fois!

Ronelle


Cucumber cups filled with shrimp and goats cheese…and a life around bicyles.

As said before, I’m not fond of cucumber. But it is a handy vegetable to use as a basis for a cold summer soup, or a summer sorbet or as in this case, here in a European winter…a cup with a filling. The combination of shrimp and goat’s cheese , dill and capers, seasons the watery cucumber. And even though cucumber is not in season at the moment, I feel like fresh foods after the heavy holidays.

Suggestions:

  • The quantities are only approximate, use to your own taste.
  • The filling can be varied to your taste too.
  • Decorate the skin of the cucumber by scraping shavings off with a peeler, or use a fork or a small lemon scoop to scrape off strips..
  • Use sardines instead of shrimps, or shredded white fish or chopped smoked salmon.
  • Use fromage frais with chopped herbs or diced seasonal vegetables.
  • Add mustard or pesto to ricotta and mix with shredded ham.
  • Consider chopped almonds with a finely chopped chicken filling.
  • Serve with a vinaigrette of your choice.

…a life around bicycles…

Do you remember all the times we got pulled over by the policemen for me carrying you on the handles of my bicycle? “, he asked.

She laughed. “Oh yes! … such fun and carefree, irresponsible years!”

That happened of course in the university years of this couple. They relived these moments while reminiscing over past times and paging through all the old photo albums. They remebered the times when they both grew up in their childhood homes, each with their bicycle, driving to different schools in different towns. Then they met at university and continued cycling everywhere  together…to class, to tennis matches, to university functions, to town, to the movies, to dances, to river picnics. Those years, most of the student population owned bicycles rather than cars. It was cheaper. And easier. And if yours got “borrowed”, you would just “borrow” the next one. Then after a while it got more romantic for the guy to carry his girl in front of him on the bicycle handles…his ox, as his bike was called…that way he could smell her hair waving in his face and have her close to him, and she enjoyed her Titanic-moment in front on the handles, with her guy doing all the pedalling work. So it happened many times that study hours were to be spent at “the dam”.She would ride in front on the handles, carrying their books and he would pedal for death to reach the top of the bridge crossing the rail road track  so they could free down on the other side at an exhilirating speed. Suddenly a siren would honk beside them, forcing them to stop at the foot of the bridge and obediently and humbly they listened to the policemen’s rant about their criminal act of lifting on the bike handles. But when the stern officer of law disappeared in the distance, they continued on their course, unperturbed by the mean little piece of paper in the pocket.  It is just what a student does in a university town. Laws don’t apply to students of course…which is why they carry student cards..

When this guy finally married this girl and entered the professional career world, they continued their cycling ways for a while, until they couldn’t hide behind their student faces any more.the fines started burning a hoole in their pocket, so they decided it would be cheaper for the girl, now a grown-up wife, to pedal her own bike again. Gone were the carefree riding on bicycle handles.

..the first cycles..

When two daughters enriched their lives, the tricycles and bicycles started taking up more and more space in the garage… The young guy was now a father and he trained his girls on thier bikes in the garage where it was safe, thenmoved into the garden andfinally he pedalled beside them to pre school across the big, scary main road. And on their firm demand, he watched them pedal the last two metres to school, where they turned and waved a proud little hand back at him. It continued for many years, and they enjoyed every minute on their bikes… doing their tricks, racing their father, chasing the dog, racing around the pool, falling into the pool…where the safety net proved its worth by allowing only their behinds to get soaking wet.


As young students, the girls too depended on their bicycles to get around and now, as young adults, they race their bicycles up and down mountains and in the challenging traffic of Paris and Toulouse. And the young student-couple of years ago, still ride their bicycles too…of which one is still a black ox and the other a cute pink velo with a basket for fruit and a flask of coffee and two old leather bags for art stuff. And like in their student years, the guy still holds the back line, and although he can’t feel  her hair waving in his face as he did so long ago, he can now appreciate  her cute derriére as she pedals frantically in front of him.

..riding my bicycle..

Bonne 2011 et à la prochaine fois!
Ronelle

Chocolate mousse..and memories of christmas dinners.

Christmas time is chocolat time. A feather light chocolate mousse. The perfect ending to a magical christmas dinner. And in January we’ll go on a diet.


This is a recipe from Chocolate desserts by Pierre Hermé. I’ve been making this mousse for many years and haven’t found a recipe that is so light and delicious as this one…it is a true winner !!

Suggestions:

  • This is a basic mousse recipe…add some flavor the your mousse by infusing the milk with grated orange zest, or a tsp of coffee, or a pinch of cardamom, cinnamon, any other Christmas spices.
  • Using milk makes for a lighter mousse, but if you want it richer and creamier, use cream instead of milk. I even go so far as tu use 2 percent milk.
  • The longer the mousse stands, the creamier and denser it becomes, but it is still good. I prefer to make my mousse nothing more than 12 hours in advance…having a beautiful feather light chocolat mousse.
  • It can be kept up to two days in the fridge.
  • Cover the mousse when chilling it in the firdge to prevent it from absorbing other flavors in the fridge.
  • Serve as individual portions in glasses, or scoop quenelles from a glass dish onto a plate.
  • See how to make quenelles.
  • Decorate with chocolate shavings or a touch of edible gold leaf.

…and memories of christmas dinners…

How can we dwell on our past, delight in experiences long ago and not remember past years spent around a christmas table. Always special, however small or simple. Each table has a story of its own…one year a daughter arrived long after midnight from a long and problematic journey, one year there was a last meal with an elegant and fragile neighbor, one year was spent in the company of a crazy crowd of friends , one year delivered an utterly chaotic and catastrophical dinner ..one year was sad with last goodbyes, one year was spent alone and tearful in a strange country…so many christmas dinners, so many stories, so many memories…

May you have great memories of past dinners…whether you were with family or friends, or whether you were alone, or whether they were sad times…whatever the case…they are yours, cherish them, becausethey give you a history. A past.

…à la prochaine fois..

Ronelle


Winter root vegetables with lemon butter..and Toulouse, la ville rose.

Eat seasonal. It is cheap, delicious and it is harmony with the ryhythm of life. Winter root vegetables don’t have to be dull and bleak and tasteless. Steam them, roast them, pan fry them, cut in different shapes, add some separated laeves of brussels sprouts, a few broccoli fleurettes, add some chooped herbs, fry thin strips of leeks, turn them into a puree then scoop balls onto an oven pan and bake in the oven until brown….so many ways to bring colour…and nutrients to winter meals. See suggestions for more .

Suggestions:

  • Use other vegetables, but keep in mind the time each cooks and start off with the harde vegetables and add the softer veggies like mushrooms later, like 15 minutes before the end of baking time.
  • Vegetables can also be steamed and use the butter lemon sauce for all the vegetables.
  • Add other herbs of your choice…add towards the end.
  • The butter and lemon juice breaks the bitterness of the brussels sprouts.
  • A browned butter sauce can be used too.
  • Add some chopped walnuts when serving the vegetables or a mixture of chopped parsly and nuts.
  • Serve with any meat or fish dish or serve on its own with pasta.
  • Fry some thinly sliced leeks(in the length) until brown and crispy and place a small handful on the vegetables to finish off when serving.
  • Cut the vegetables in different sizes and shapes…matchsticks, cubes, rounds, curls…and remember to cook acoording to the thickness of the vegetables…ex. carrot curls cook much faster than carrot sticks.

..brussels sprout leaves and fried leek strips..

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…and Toulouse, la ville rose…

One can truly be considered fortunate when you have a daughter living in Paris and another living in Toulouse. Two equally amazing cities, each so unique and different…like the daughters themselves! And still in the theme of December memories, a visit to Toulouse, sleeping over in a quaint Toulouse apartement with the fairie lights of a first christmas tree and fresh foods from the market welcoming us…new memories and experiences enrich my life…those of being loved and spoiled by family.

..toulouse in all her splendor..

..Toulouse in December..

.. Sundays are market days…for all in France and those in Toulouse…as evidenced..

..buying clementines at the marché in toulouse..

..fresh vegetables..

..paella..

..oysters..

..le marché de dimanche..

..toujours des fleurs..

..empanadas..

..browsing the brocante..

..old pampilles(crystals) for lustres (chandeliers)..

..old books, paper, magazines, newpapers..

..a covered head and a bust..

..silver..

.. and having an outing in winter without pausing for a crêpe au nutella…unheard of!..

..eating crêpe au nutella at the borcante in toulouse..

..and going home…tired, happy and with old glass crystals in a bag..

..going home..

..à la prochaine fois..

..Ronelle..


Clementine and litchi amuse bouche..and a sous-chef.

Voiçi my very first starter I made in my mother’s house as a child. With a few changes here and there, it is better served now as a small amuse bouche before dinner. It is still very light and fresh and I’m still proud of my very first attempt! The little glasses it is served in (in the photos), are the original glasses from my mother that I used about 40 years ago for my starter of clementines and litchis.  So, les verrines is not something new…it was already a successful concept 40 years ago!

Suggestions:

  • Marinate the fruit in the vinaigrette for about an hour, but not longer.
  • Use mandarins or orange segments instead of clementines.
  • Try serving it as a bigger salad by placing the fruit on a bed of salad greens and add some shredded smoked salmon.
  • Can be used as a fruit salad…replace the vinaigrette with a sauce: clementine juice, sugar, a little water, few drops of lemon juice, zest of a clementine…simmer untul reduced to a syrup. Add a few drops of Clementine liqueur just before serving.
  • Replace the raspberries with a small scoop of raspberry sorbet.

..clementines, licthis and old tools from childhood..

…and a sous-chef..

To me, December is a month of remembrance, memories, reflections. Many memories surface during this time…some of which are funny, some sad, some without any particular significance and because memories aren’t always honest, I remember them all as dear, solely because they have brought me to this point where I am today and who I am today.

Christmas was a time in our house where things happened according to my mother’s schedule. She was a formidable woman who had the ability to organize an army into baking cookies. So,  under her hand, Decembers were very busy in our house and all the while she hoaxed me into thinking chores were fun! Baking cookies, cleaning the silver, polishing floors, washing curtains, ironing the Christmas tablecloth, decorating the living room, cooking jams, preparing for holidays…these were the things that filled up our month, with my mother holding the reigns firmly in her hands and me a close step beside her.

..chef et sous-chef..

I was sous-chef from a very young age,  whether it was washing the curtains or cooking a meal or baking the cookies. A very important position…the sous-chef! Without me, how could she have hung the wet heavy curtains  on the line to catch the sun…without me, how could she have polished the silver in time for Christmas,…without me being in charge of the cookiemaker, we would have no coffee cookies for December? It  would be disastrous…scandalous! How would the maizena cookies have jamfilled centres without me? Christmas would be sad and lonely, if I hadn’t had the responsibility of lavishing it in swirls of silver and gold streamers and glitter and shining stars!

It is of course one of the big secrets…the complete confidence of a chef in his/her sous-chef! My mom trusted me with many things, so much so that I was allowed the responsibility for the starter at a big dinner. This was my first ever solo contribution to a dinner.  She also allowed me the key to her dinnerware cabinet where I could choose something for my starter. Such an important position…the sous-chef!

So here I am presenting my first starter, then as a sous-chef in my mother’s kitchen. The only difference is that now I’ve been promoted to chef. I have my own kitchen. And the starter is now served as an amuse bouche.

..May your December memories be as dear as mine!..

..amuse bouche in old childhood glasses..

..à la prochaine..

Ronelle


Foie gras with mango .. and December ambiance 2010.

Foie gras is a traditional favourite in our home for Christmas. Along with oysters and “vin chaud” (or gluhwein), it always appears on our menu. Some years will see our foie gras home made in a terrine, served cold and some years it will be fried, served with warm mango and toasted brioche.


  1. Cut raw foie gras into escalopes of about 1.5-2mm thick. Dust lightly with flour and leave in the fridge until needed.
  2. Peel and cut a mango in thin slices. Heat a pan with a knob of butter and add the mango slices. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and fry until caramelized.
  3. Keep warm.
  4. Cut some brioche in slices, toast and cut on the diagonal into two halves.
  5. Heat non stick pan to hot, add the escalopes of foie gras and fry on one side until caramelized. Turn over and tquickly touch the other side. Remove from the heat and serve immediatly.
  6. To serve: Place one half of the brioche on a plate. Place a slice of fried foie gras on top. Finish off with slices of mango  and place the second half of the brioche askew.  Serve immediately.

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…My own space…

“So what are you hanging around here for, Mrs duck? You belong on the beautiful lake out there, not here with the people, this isn’t your place…”

“Well, I’m fed here, all kinds of goodies and I like it, so why not? You enjoy it out here on the terrace with your cheesecake, why can’t I…. and don’t be so selfish with it by the way, share some!  See the German tourists over there? No selfishness at that table!”

“No, you can’t have cheesecake. I’m a human, this is what we humans do. You’re an animal, a duck, you don’t eat cheesecake and you don’t belong on a terrace. And by the way, where are your ducklings?”

“Oh, smarten up! We’re not in the Middle Ages any more! And my ducklings are fine, they’re in good hands.  They’re with the nanny. I need my own space too, you know!”

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Suggestions:

  • Have your pan hot before putting in your escalopes of foie gras.
  • Sear on one side and turn over for a quick touch on the other side and serve immediately.
  • Other fruit like plums, peaches, apple, pear and figs can be done the same way and served warm with the foie gras.

…and December ambiance 2010


And here we are again in the special month of December, with its cold and dark days, bright lights, snow and frost, snuggling in front of fireplaces and cupping our hand around a cup of hot chocolate, indulging in our nostalgias and reflecting on christmas dinners.

Our christmas tree gets decorated on the 1st day of December and for the rest of December we light a candle ever night to rememeber those who we loved or still love. And decorating the christmas tree means more than Santa Claus and Noel and gifts and the three kings, or the crib and a baby…it is a witness to our memories and tender sentiments which come to us in this month, the end of a year, when reflection on the past and pondering on future dreams travel with us towards the new year.

…May your December be whatever you wish it to be and may happiness be your biggest wish…


Previous years:

Duo de chocolat.. and December ambiance 2009

December ambiance 2008 with cinnamon dumplings

First day of December 2007

..à la prochaine..

Ronelle

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La ratatouille à ma façon..and hand me the scissors!

Ratatouille is such a versatile dish – there are more ways than can be counted to do it nowadays and everyone swears by his/her way. The traditional  way takes takes far too long(for me in any case!) and the vegetables are too soft and juicy to my taste. So I do it the quicker and crunchier way and so far, nobody has complained…on the contrary…everybody finds it fresh and enjoys the crunchiness still present and the appearance pleasant. It is a perfect little vegetable starter for the festive meals that await us!

La ratatouille est un plat assez commun et pourtant, chacun  fait sa ratatouille a sa façon. La façon traditionnelle veut que ce soit cuit longtemps, comme tout les ragout. Pour ma part, je trouve ça  pénible! Et de toute façon, je préfère mes légumes toujours plus croquants avec ces couleurs encore vive! Donc, je fais ma ratatouille vite et croquante et personne ne s’en plaint. Au contraire!  Tout le monde la trouve très bonne!Voilà une bonne petite entrée aux légumes pour les fêtes qui nous approchent.

Suggestions:

  • Ratatouille can be used as a startert or an amuse bouche or as a side accompanying chicken, fish or red meat. If it is to accompany a meat dish, cut the dice a little bigger…perhaps 6×6 mm.
  • Don’t overcook, so the texture can still be crunchy, which makes it different from the traditional ratatouille which is simmered for a longer time to have the vegetables really tender with more sauce than I have here.
  • Add some garlic and provencal herbs to the ratatouille like thyme, marjoram, oreganum.
  • It can be served warm or at room temperature.
  • Serve with freshly shredded basil over the top for a nice fresh appearance.
  • Serve on a canape(small slice of bread) for an amuse bouche, or serve in a little bowl or glass and toast some brioches to serve with it.
  • If you want more special flavour to your ratatouille, add some chilies and spices to give it a kick.
  • Add some langoustine, cut in chunks or mussels, oysters or shrimp to your rataouille along with chervil or dill.

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..and hand me the scissors!..

I don’t have any fond feelings aboutf scissors, in fact, I pretty much associate them with pain and blood, of which I have first hand experience.

But then again, if I think of life without them..?

I had a pretty little old one from my mother which I kept in my handbag and forgot to take out before we had to board at the airport.  I still have another one left, a very ancient model, frequently used by her and even though it lacks performance, its beauty stays unsurpassed. No psychedelic colored plastic in sight and the handle shows signs of hard use and yes, the blade is full of rust spots, but the lines are sleek and graceful and the grip allows for good comfort. Just a simple but beautiful, old pair of scissors from my childhood, one that came from my mother’s sewing kit and is now not so much a utility as a connection to the past.

scissors-bedroom

Like everybody else, I also have  scissors everywhere throughout the house. In the bedroom.. a small pair for removing labels or a loose thread here and there. In the bathroom for cutting and trimming hair, my husband still only trusts me to cut his hair. In the atelier where hundreds(well, almost a hundred!)have to cut anything from plaster to paper.

..scissors-coiffeur..

Then there is the handyman that cuts just about anything, although I don’t believe in this all-round-scissors. I want one for every purpose – one for cutting hair and one for cutting paper, another for cutting plastic and one at close hand when I can’t find the hammer, or the screwdriver or the can-opener…The sewing kit has a few of its own, and to my dismay, the huge fabric scissors is in high demand at Christmas when all the others scissors have magically disappeared.

..scissors-all purpose..

The kitchen is an interesting topic. I have yet to figure out the system there – one for every task? But that would leave neither time nor place for anything else in the kitchen!

..scissors-la cuisine..

My pièce de résistance is my  giant, heavy pair of fabric scissors that I acquired years ago with every cent we owned and woe to the one who dare use it for anything else! It has never been sharpened and after almost 30 years still cuts through a piece of fabric like a hot knife through butter!

..scissors-sewing kit..

And let’s not forget the garden scissors…those very important pruning tools and the small scissors for bonsai that I use to cut string for tying and staking in the garden. Do you keep your garden scissors clean and oiled? Not? shame on you!! the same goes for cutting flowers for the house…clean them, oil them and they will serve you a lifetime.

..scissors - garden... and ...flower arranging..

It seems I can actually conjure up some images of pleasure and so maybe I do have fond memories of scissors after all….

..old scissors..

…à la prochaine!..

..Ronelle..

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Butternut velouté..and fragrance in the home

Butternut soup is probably my most favorite soup. Keeping it simple brings out the natural sweetness of the butternut and warm comfort of its creaminess.  Don’t hide its wonderful autumn flavors behind all sorts of funny additions…sometimes something has to be left alone to speak in its own voice. Like the velvety butternut.

Suggestions:

  • Any other pumpkin of about 1 kg can be used in the same way.
  • Add a knob of butter when sauteing the shallot…it adds more flavor.
  • Use home made vegetable stock if possible, or else an organic vegetable stock. Water can be used instead.
  • See here for a bouquet garni.
  • Add about 2 tsps orange zest for a more pronounced orange flavor.
  • If the soup is too thick, add cream for a richer version and milk for a lighter version to your taste.

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..and fragrance in the home..

Isn’t it nice to step into a home and smell the most subtlest of fragrances…not an overwhelming smell, but just enough to have you wonder what it is, where it comes from.

There are many ways to bring fragrance into your home. But always remember the first golden rule: always keep it soft, gentle and subtle. Nothing is as sickening as a sweet and overpowering smell. It is much like an old woman seeking youth in powder and perfume.  Or like a guy who fell into a bottle of Old Spice. The second rule is to never have a perfumed candle at the dinner table or around food.

..candles: héliotrope, wild rose and green tea..

To prevent a room from being invaded with scent, a perfumed candle should burn only for a short while. The small tealight tops are a favorite of mine to burn on winter evenings when it gets dark in the afternoons. They are very gentle in flavor and I leave them to burn the whole evening…romance and ambiance for all, even on week nights…everybody loves it!

Winter chases us inside earlier and for longer…we  cook inside more, we make fires in the fireplaces and receive more visitors inside than in any other season. It is important to have fresh fragrance in the house as well…flowers, diffusers, lamp bulbs with rings and dotted wih essential oils, some envelopes in drawers or in hidden corners, some light house sprays, pillow sprays, sachets hanging on door knobs, incense burning after an open fire in the fireplace. Again…keep it light and stay away from the sweet and strong flavors, like vanilla and fruits.  I sometimes use cedar incense to get rid of the smoky smell of our open fireplace. I never use potpourii, because it only gathers dust.

..diffusers with tea lights and incense..

When using a diffuser and a tealight, take care to drop only a little 0il and burn the candle only a short while. The fragrance quickly disperses throughout the room.

In the bedroom, room sprays and pillow sprays are gentle enough..spritz on the bed rather than the pillow and a light spritz in the air with a room spray leaves a gentle frangrance.

..home and pillow sprays..

My favourite fragrances are rose, heliotrope, amber, citrus, all tea leaves and cotton flower. Some of these tiny bottle below go back many, many years and I can’t get rid of them. They still carry the smell of essential oils…and sweet memories.

..bulb rings with essential oils..

A drop of essential oil on a bulb ring, made from terracotta or balsawood on a bulb and the heat of the bulb disperses the fragrance through the room. The balsa wood works great on the new economy bulbs which don’t get as hot.

..scented envelopes and handmade envelopes..

Although the scented envelopes are meant for drawers, I place them in bowls in corners in the house. They aren’t strong and overpowering and only give off a flavor when you pass them. And of course, nothing is easier than making your own envelopes: Use white envelopes and paint them in your favourite olours, drip the paint, flow it on the envelope, write, scribble, hand paint…whichever you feel like doing. Fill your handpainted envelope with clean catsand or wooden shavings, add a drop of soft essentail oil, glue your envelope and place in a corner where it can be admired as well as give off its gentle fragrance in the room.

May your winter days…and for otheres, summer days…be filled with the softt fragrances of cotton flower, and your evenings be cozy around the flicker of a cedar scented candle.

…à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


“Sablés” aux graines..et la Touraine pittoresque

A while ago, my daughter bought a packet of  sablés des près from Bonne Maman and it was so good. So I looked at the ingredients and decided to create my own. Et voilà mes sablés aux graines!… if ever I can be allowed to blow my own horn, this would be it! These sablés turned out delicious and I’ve decided it will be my Christmas gift to friends this season. I’ve done half of the quantity with the addition of poppy- white sesamé- and sunflower seeds and the other half with only fennel seeds, which have a more “herb” taste and are as delicious. With a cup of tea or tisane…late night…before bed…pure comfort! The only problem? How to stop at two  sablés..!

Suggestions:

  • Whole wheat flour can be used instead of white flour.
  • When using whole wheat flour, use light brown sugar instead of white sugar for more rustic coloured cookies.
  • Replace 1/2 c flour with 1/2 c rice flour.
  • Replace the three seeds with 3 TBSP of fennel seeds.
  • If you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the dried ingredients.
  • Use a stencil to flatten the cookies…with a letter of the alphabet, or another design that you like.
…sablés aux graines..la farine de blé, tipe 55…sablés des près de Bonne Maman..

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…la touraine pittoresque…

I’m saying goodbye to a breathtaking autumn…! Our rains have arrive this weekend…pouring down non stop! And so the warm splendor of autumn has now been forced to make way for  the abstract art of stark winter impressions.

With silly excitement, I will now trot along November deeper into winter, all the while  planning our Christmas tree, which will be put up on 1 December, like tradition dictates. (Keep an eye on the watch it you’d like to see..) And to keep the winter blues at bay, I will be planning our outings and visits to chateaux and places of interest for this season….the chateaux have such different ambiance in December…in Chenonceau for example, a huge fire crackles in the massive fireplace…and after such a visit, it will be off to warm ouselves around a chocolat chaud in a cozy brasserie. It is also the time to go to shows and chorals and music concerts in the catedrales. But more about all of this later. For now, a last tribute to la Touraine pittoresque!

...houses on the loire...

..je vous souhaite une bonne semaine!..

Ronelle


Artichokes with figs..and a little bit of Paris.

Artichokes filled with red fig and topped with a goats cheese can be served whichever way  you want to…on the side with a meat dish, or as a salad, or a starter, and even as an amuse bouche with a glass of cold white wine. It is truly delicious and even enjoyed by people who find artichokes without taste. If you want to be really gourmet, you will prepare the atichokes yourself, but you can choose the easier but still delicious way, by buying the frozen artichoke hearts, readily available everywhere.


Suggestions:

  • Use frozen artichoke hearts, which is as delicious and fresh and less work. BUT for a special occasion in season , DO put in some effort for some fresh, seasonal artichokes.
  • Feta cheese with ricotta or sour cream  can be used instead of goats cheese and crème fraîche.
  • Yellow figs can be used instead of red figs.
  • Substitue maple syrup or thym honey for the white balsamic syrup.
  • Serve as a starter on a bed of greens, or as a side with duck, or as an amuse bouche, served on small plates.
  • Bake at 200 degrees C for about 10 -15 minutes.

..les coeurs d'atichauts au four..

les figues rouges...la crème de balsamique...les artichauts

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..and a little bit of Paris…

I was in Paris for a quick visit and when passing by Antoine, I couldn’t resist this parapluie for the coming winter and its rains. I never actually use one, because I knock everyone in the eye and over the head or umbrella them off the sidewalk. But I’ve decided everything can be worked at and I want to look chic this winter and for that I need this parapaluie. So I will work at my clumsiness with a parapluie and turn myself into a proper parisienne…just imagine…never again wet hair clinging to my forehead..

I’m almost tempted to say that the elagant Parisienne you see in the following images, is me, but unfortunately my concience won’t allow it! It is my beautiful  friend who was willing to play model for me with my ombrelle! And she knows exactly how, since she had been une Parisienne a few years ago, before she became une Tourangelle.

..la parisienne et le parapluie..

And some scenes from my meanderings in Paris:

…statues always attract me with their wistfull quietness and their frozen stares…

..statues de paris..

…and architecture with  roofs and chimneys, towers and  balcomies, doors and windows…

..architecture de paris..

..and of course, on my way to catch the TGV home, I have to wander through le jardin du Luxembourg where I always stop for a game of chess and delight in the creative chaos of the the Luxembourg chairs…

..jardin du luxembourg..

… in le bois de Vincenne, autumn is a flaming opera with the colours performing the libretto with  extravagant flair…

..l’automne à paris..

..à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


Chili peppers stuffed with rabbit..and a home library.

I had left over rabbit. And small chili peppers. Some goats cheese. Herbs. And guests for dinner. As un apéro, these would do perfectly.

But BEWARE: They are very hot. While I was preparing them, I took a tiny bite from one and it was fairly piquant, but not as I expected and I continued happily.  BUT THEN… later the afternoon, I propped a smallish whole one in my mouth….well,  I flounced desperately around the kitchen table, like a horse being backed for the first time. I fled  outside in the rain for oxygen and help.  Not finding it there, I scrambled back to the fridge and gulped down 6 joghurts… I think next time I will use the mild spanish red pepper instead…but oh, these look SO pretty on a platter…!


Suggestions:

  • Use left over chicken or duck or turkey instead of rabbit.
  • When using duck, leave out the cheese and replace with balsamic vinegar and grated apple, sprinkled with lemon juice.
  • Ricotta cheese or créme fraîche can be used in place of the goats cheese.
  • Serve as a sterter with a small green salad, or serve as an apéritif with a cold white wine.
  • If the chili peppers are too hot to your liking, use the long Spanish red peppers instead and cut them shorter from the thin point upward.

Apart from smelling freshly brewed coffee when entering a home, few other things can  give a home that feeling of lived in comfort, cosiness , than seeing books…stacks of books, or shelves overflowing with a chaos of books. It doesn’t matter if it is a formal library or the living room where books are strewn on the table and couches.  I’m not talking about the pretentious shelves and  more shelves of beautiful books, only admired for their leather covers…No,  I love entering a home and seeing books everywhere, inviting me to take on from a shelf or pick it up from a table or chair or even the floor….open it up and page through… read the end…the sinopsis and discover a little bit about the owner’s taste and likes and discover new titles…

We don’t have a libraryat home, only “corners” of books which  I try in vain to keep  neat. Now I look past it and only try to balance out the stacking in order to prevent a shelf from breaking. And I LOVE it when people come here and pick up a book…!

..books at home..

..books in corners..

..books on the coffeetable, by the bed, decorating corners(which I HAVE read and still reread, yes)..

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I bought this beautiful and inspiring book on libraries a while ago: BIBLIOTHEQUES – l’art de vivre avec des livres by Roland Beaufre and Dominique Dupuich..

..BIBLIOTHEQUES - l'art de vivre avec des livres by Roland Beaufre and Dominique Dupuich..

*All the following images are borrowed from the book:

These next two libraries, are my most favorites in this book…if you leave me in either of these two, I’ll just happily disappear and you’ll never see me again!

..from the family Tazi, at Rabat..

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Another wonderful treasure of books!

..library of the Parisian decorator, Laure Welfing in Tanger..

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This library below is beautiful…too beautiful actually. I feel like someone’s is whispering…:”Don’t touch”!

..a bourgeoise library in Tanger..

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Don’t you just love a space like this, with so much to see and look at and loaded with personality…except for that spider on the lamp shade of course…

..working space/library of Gilles Neret in St-Germain-de-Prés, journalist and editor..

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This inviting couch and the lamp won me over!

..library/working space of art writer, Francois Jonquet with a bohemian flavor..

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A bit less chaotic, but still inviting with its couch and music station, the warmth of family photos, botanical prints…and of course…MANY books!!

..library of decoration journalist, Pamela de Monbrison..

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I hope this kicked you into a mood of reading, like it did me…and instead of watching a good DVD this weekend, let’s make it one of reading those oldies we haven’t touched in a while!

..bon week-end!..

Ronelle


Ambiance 22/10: Spaghetti squash with three-tomato-sauce..and autumn flavour.

Spaghetti squash makes for an quite an interesting meal…served with a homemade tomato sauce, or with  oven baked tomatoes.   Especially great for those who want to cut down on carbohydrates…and calories..

 

Suggestions:

  • Don’t overcook the squash, or else it won’t shred off in strands, but be mushy.
  • The squash can alos be cooked in the microwave oven – prick all over with a knife and microwave for about 15 minutes or more until the skin is tender but not soft. (whole squash of about 1 kg)
  • The squash on its own is fairly tasteless and bland, so take care to make your tomatoes/sauce flavorful.
  • Instead of oven baked tomatoes, a tomato sauce can be made by sauteing some onions, adding chooped tomatoes and reducing at low heat until thick anad flavorful. Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and add shredded basil leaves.
  • Chopped olives and parmesan cheese can be added when serving the dish.
  • Marinate tomatoes are tomatoes that have been dried in the oven until semi dry and still holds juice. It must be refrigerated and doesn’t keep as long as dried tomatoes, but is much more flavorful.
  • This spaghetti with sauce can be served as an accompaniment to any kind of fish.

 

♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣

I don’t do a lot of fall decoration, but I do like a little pumpkin and some fresh autumn fruit here and there. Some leaves… Nothing very whoo haa. Just a little something. A little autumn flavor brought inside.

Normalement je ne fais pas trop de décoration d’automne, à l’exception d’une courge çà et là. J’aime aussi les fruits saisonnales en abondances , comme des poires, de jolies pommes de saison et n’oublie pas de délicieux coings! Et bien sur, les belles feuilles mortes, que je ramasse quotidiennement partout sur mon passage, remplacent les bouquets de fleurs estivales. Je ne fais rien en grande pompe, mais tout ça donne juste un petit gout d’automne dans la maison et ses alentours.

..autumn leaves in white vase..

Flowers get replaced by autmn leaves and greenery, picked up on walks by the Loire..in vases, in bowls.

..autumn leaves..

White pumpkins make for attractive decor everywhere in the house. place some small ones on a stack of books, or on top of some dried moss, stack them in urns and pots…

..sandpot with pumpkins...and old books with pumpkins..

Their shapes and smooth whiteness harmonize well with the rustic texture of outside walls and pots, urns and wooden surfaces.

...urn with pumpkins..

Outside they can stand quietly beside a pot planted with white cyclamen. Or even inside keeping a vase of drying hydrangeas company. Alongside apples, they seduce us with color and form. A still life.., there.., to admire and enjoy the quietness of autumn.

..autumn decor..

♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣

..bon week-end!..

Ronelle

 


Apple cake..and “le marché des douceurs à Montlouis s/L”.

Our youngest daughter loves apple-anything and she started baking this cake when she was only knee high. It is from The Australian woman’s weekly home librabry – Cakes and slices. We’ve changed it only  a little . The recipe directs to cut apples in quarters and then cut 3/4 trhough in slices and then press into the dough. It gives a beautiful cake, but makes the slices too big(to include apples in each slice) so we cut the apples in slices and spread them through out the cake, which gives a less attractive cake, BUT much more moist and of course delicious!

PS: forgive the bad photo..I was being pushed on with the photo, because my daughter didn’t want the cake cold…and after all, she DID bake the cake..!


Suggestions.

  • Pears could be used instead of apples.
  • Instead of inserting the apples slices all over the top of the cake, the apples can be cut into courters and then sliced only 3/4 way through. Press into the cake at the edges. I gives a prettier cake, but the slices won’t be spread through out the cake.
  • Gelatin powder can be used…1 tsp.
  • Best when served slightly warm with a spoonful of whipped cream on the side…or my ever trusting naughty crème fraîche!
  • It can be stored for two to three days.

Last weekend, Montlouis held its yearly, autumn “marché des douceurs. A lot of eating and drinking, socializing and selling marks the day and if one arrives home hungry you have only yourself to blame!

Le week-end dernier etait le marché des douceurs en centre ville de notre petit village si sympa, avec des rencontres de  Montlouisiens si sympa. C’est la fête automnale annuelle et on y mange et on y boire. On discute dans les rues, on vends et on achète .   Si, après tout ca, on rentre à la maison sans un sourire ou encore affamé… eh bien, c’est pas à cause d’un manque de  la nourriture ou un manque de divertissement!

...local organic vegetables...

..directions to Montlouis..

..en vélo..

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..poduits Basques..

..crépe au nutella..

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...fondants chocolats, macarons and nougats from Tours...

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...fun for the kiddies...

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la fameuse Géline de Touraine

..la barbe à papa..

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..tumbling flowers..

..menu de la loire à 15 euros..

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...the fish from les Animalis...

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..."M le fermier" and his vegetable "sculptures"...

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

…à la prochaine…

Ronelle


Ambiance 8/10

Coasters. That tiny but important  little thing,  preventing me from going crazy. I hate any kind of “ring” on furniture…a water ring from a glass , a heat ring from a hot mug, a wine ring from a bottle…it drives me nuts. So I have coasters everywhere. Beside the beds, by the computer, on the office desks, in my atelier, in the kitchen , outside… since we have become a “lazy mug using” society, rings have become more visible on our furniture. A pity. I would easily vote for going back to a cup and saucer. But until then..coasters it is. Maybe this weekend could be useful in getting rid of all stain rings everywhere and go shop for a variety of affordable, fun coasters to enjoy a drink without stress!

Les dessous-de-verres. Une chose apparamment petite, mais très importante. Moi, je ne supporte oas du tout  les taches sur une table; soit si c’est une tache d’un verre d’eau, soit la  tache dun verre du vin, soit une tache d’un “mug” de café… Ça me rend folle!  Donc, j’ai des dessous-de-verres partoutes dans la maison, même à l’extérieur. Malheureusement, comme on est devenu une société de consommateurs de “mugs” de cafés, de “mugs” de thé, et de “mugs” de cacao, les taches commencée a faire leurs apparitions plus visibles sur les meubles à la maison. Dommage! Peut-être ce weekend  peut-on investir dans quelques dessous-de-verres abordables et “fun”, pour que on puisse s’amuser plus tranquillement autour d’un verre ou d’un “mug” de café.

…an  assortment of coasters for peace of mind…

Do we have time for a movie this weekend? Always! One of my favorite actresses, is Juliette Binoche. A great, versatile actress. I once received an amazing compliment…someone told me I remind him of Juliette Binoche. But … it was late at night and it was during a good meal with plenty of good wine… What I would like to have…is a laugh like her. A wonderfully  spontaneous, bold  and spirited laugh!

Est ce qu’on peut regarder un film ce weekend? Bien entendu! Une de mes actrices préférées, est Juliette Binoche. Une fois, on m’a fait un joli compliment; quel qu’un  m’a dit que je ressemblais àJuliette Binoche. Mais…c’etait au cours d’un dîner, il etait, tard, et on avait bien bu… et pourtant, j’aimerais tellement avoir son merveilleux rire, si charmant, si spontané, si vif et si audacieux!

Copie conforme plays off in Italy,  spoken in English, French and Itaian…to me  a great film by Abbas Kiarostami.

…bon weekend…

Ronelle


Spinach lasagna..and 1001 gardeners’ secrets.

I always think of lasagna as a true homy meal…served with a fresh green salad and a pungent vinaigrette and of course a crusty bread to sweep your plate…It can be served in a large oven-to-table dish, which is what I prefer with a lasagne. It can also be served in portion dishes, which makes it of course a bit more elegant.

Suggestions:

  • You can use any vegetable, but don’t use too big a variety. The same Golden three rule, as for any other decoration-, architect-, flower arranging- subject applies here too. Less says more.
  • Frozen spinach can be used instead of fresh. There is no exact measure…check your dish and measure how much veggies and sauce and cheese you would need.
  • Pasta sheets: Fresh or dried pasta sheets can be used but make sure to use enough liquid in the tomato/vegetable mixture for the pasta sheets to absorb. Pasta sheets can be cooked beforehand, which means more work!
  • I prefer only two layers of pasta and I end with a third layer of vegetbale and béchamel sauce. But if you like more pasta in your dish, make as many layers as you like by spreading the layers thinner.
  • Béchamel sauce: Heat 500 ml milk along with 5 parsley stems, 4 whole peppercorns, a small carrot, branch of thyme and 1 celery stick. Leave to infuse  and to cool completely. Make a roux in a saucepan by melting 1 heaped TBSP butter. Whisk in  1 heaped TBSP flour. Leave to cook on medium heat unitl it becomes frothy…about 3 minutes. Remove the herbs from the milk and add slowly to the butter mixture, while whisking the whole time. Leave on low heat and stir until thick. If your sauce is too thick, add a little milk. I like my sauce like thick cream. I definitly don’t want to plaster a house! Season to taste.
  • This is not a recipe where exact amounts are necessary. Add a little more spinach or less, add more courgettes or less..be interested in what you’re doing, taste and taste again.
  • I serve with a drizzling of olive oil…just to give that bit extra mediterranean touch…

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…1001 garders’ secrets -  Jean-Michel Groult…

As mentioned before, I love garden b0oks…well, all books for that matter…new ones, old ones, worn ones, impeccable ones, thick ones, thin ones, beautiful ones, ordinary ones and all topics…but for today I’ll stick to a little book that gives so much advice on simple gardening. Just 1001 tips to make work in the garden a pleasure. there are many books on the market, worldwide, in all languages, presenting the same. We have all come to a stage where we are forced to do simplify work, whether in a garden or elsehwere. And we have come to a stage where we are forced to consider healthier ways of gardening…letting go of the pesticides in favour of more natural ways…plants, prevention, insects, animals…

My garden is all set for autumn. I’m just waiting for the colours to deepen a bit more before taking some photos. And in a few weeks, I’ll be setting the garden up for winter – wrapping the pots and some plants, wrapping and storing all garden furniture, setting out some winter decorations. But more about that later.   For now there is still a lot of garden reading and writing going on and here is a little taste of a book that inspires gardening all year round.

So, why not get out to the bookstore and find a similar little book that inspires you to go for a greener, healthier but still beautiful and delighful garden, filled with colour and harvests, buzzing animal life and quiet moments of reflection.

All images below taken from the book, 1001 secrets de jardiniers.

…Simple and easy garden care…

* gone are the times where gardening was hard work to keep in tip top condition, even when being a natural garden. After all, we visit a garden to sow happiness, not difficulties. *

…à la cuisine…

* flavour above all else, wild plants, make vinegar!, store dried, cordon-bleu tricks *

…enhance your space…

* keep your garden seasonal, some interest in every seaon. let it breathe some freedom by breaking hard lines with freeflowing and -growing plants, leave some shrubs to grow high and shape onto arches hwich will give as much charm as climbing creepers. *

…baskets full of fruit and vegetables…

* what can be more gratifying thatn harvesting your own fresh fruit and vegetables? but it can be hard work and tiring as well if not simplified and made easy for yourself. *

… a green view…

* See the garden as you wouild see the interior of your home….walls with furniture and decorations and wall hangings. apply the same to your garden…not only a green lawn in an empty garden. See trees and shrubs and creepers and garden furniture as the decorations of your garden and keep it as aestethic as you would your house. *

…348 pages of secrets for a healthy, interesting and inspiring garden, simplified to do it the easy and environmently friendly way…

…à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


Sorrel and rocket cappuccino..and the chicken chronicles II.

When something is in abundance, we should make use of it…like the sorrel in my garden, which is growing profusely. Not to mention the rocket, which is close to taking over the garden. Combine the two in an early atumn soup, sprinkle with some pistachios and cut some baguette to accompany.

Suggestions:

  • Spinach and basil leaves can be used instead of the sorrel and rocket.
  • The green peas are added for a green color…don’t boil the peas so they lose their green colour.
  • Potatoes can be added for a more consistent soup.
  • Be sure to sauté the sorrel beforehand in a bit of oil to prevent a sour taste to the soup.
  • Use a cuppaccino frother to make milk froth for a light version, or use whipped cream instead.
  • My way of making a creamy milk froth: Use cold, half fat milk. pour up to the marked level of the frother and froth until creamy. warm in the microvwave until the froth rises to the top. (Keep an eye on it, it haapens very quickly).Remove from the microwave and stir with a metal spoon until the mixture is nice and creamy.Spoon onto your soup(or coffee). The froth will hold its shap for quite a long time. For a cold soup, omit the heating.
  • This soup is delicious warm or cold.

…bon appetit!…

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…while the soup is busy simmering… an update on the chicken chronicles...

I mentioned in a previous post: Asparagus with poppy vinaigrette and a confused chicken, that the one hen turned out to be a rooster, which forced me to give them to a friend living on a farm.  It broke my heart to see them go and I especially missed Petronella, the rooster terribly, with his wonderfully cockey attitude! But they are happy  where they are now and Petronella can crow to “his” heart’s delight without worrying about neighbours. Here they can be seen as cute tiny chicks…A simple salad and special corners.

After a while I got two new chickens…Tartelette and Omelette.  Two Pekin bantam little chickens in the colour of Touraine…a soft grey, called “porcelaine“. They soon filled the sad corners of my heart…isn’t it amazing how much love we have to give? They are two adorable little featherfooted friends and I couldn’t ask for better chatterboxes to bring fun and laughter to my days!

Early mornings begin with joghurt. Healthy chicken food the rest of the day and a gouter(snack) late afternoon is  their favorite joghurt again, some grated coconut and a few shreds of salami…yeah yeah…I know… chickens know nothing about joghurt and coconut…, but then I also think these  two chickens don’t know they are chickens!

Where Tokala and Ayiani(my two beautifully chic cats)ignore me for the better half of the day to live their royal life, Tartelette and Omelette are just too eager to follow in my every  fresh footstep, to entertain and be entertained all the way. They fiddle around under my easel in my atelier during the day, groom and massage their feathers by my feet  and slip into the kitchen when I’m not looking to nestle in “their” corner for a nap, while looking at me with flirty eyes and charmingly tilted heads, begging to be allowed to stay…now tell me…how can I refuse such seduction?

…à la prochaine!

Ronelle


White fish with saffron sauce.. and a “bio marché” day in Tours.

After buying some local saffron…from here in Touraine, I had to make something fishy with a saffron sauce. I love saffron and with fish it is really special…in taste as well as in appearance.  Sometimes a white fish can look fairly …bland, but a sauce can lift it to a different level. I used skate wing in this recipe, a fish that I love for its delicate taste and ease with which you can enjoy it without fishing out bones in your mouth.

J’ai acheté un peu de safran de Touraine au marché bio à Tours.j’adore le safran au départ j’ai eu envie de préparer un poisson au safran. Parfois un poisson blanc semble très triste sur notre assiette et le gout n’est rien que fade. Une sauce au safran relève ce poisson banal à une expérience gastronomique, facile à manger, sans péniblement pêcher les arrêts dans sa bouche!

NB: It is a fish that is being overfished and quickly disappearing from certain waters. Measurements have now been put in place to control the fishing and protect the skate. Please make sure that you buy your skate from a reputable fishmonger. Definitely don’t buy it at the supermarket!

NB: Faites attention a ce poisson qui est en train de disparaître très vite, a cause de la pêche  négligente. Ne l’achetez surtout pas au supermarché, mais plutôt dans une poissonnerie réputable.

I served the skate wing with a spaghetti of courgette on the side, quickly plunged in boiling water and rinsed under cold water, dried and lightly seasoned.

Suggestions:

  • This recipe can work well with any white fish. I used skate wing.
  • Serve on a big platter and serve individual portions from the wings by lifting small filets off the bone onto each plate.
  • The courgettes can be peeled into long ribbons, using a potato peeler if you don’t have the special spaghetti tool. Cut the ribbons into thin paghetti or leave as ribbons(tagliatelle).
  • Don’t boil the courgette spaghettie or else they will lose their color, break up and become mushy, without any crunch.
  • Dry the courgettes well after rinsing to prevent them from being soggy in the plate.

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The organic market day in Tours took off early in the morning, with everybody setting up their stalls and readying themselves for a day of sunshine and hungry, eager visitors. Indeed a successful day for Touraine on the banks of the Loire.

Le bio marché  à Tours était une grande réussite. Chacun installé ses stands et se préparé pour une journée estivale,  remplie de visiteurs affamés. Encore un succès pour la Touraine aux bords de la Loire.

…je veille sur le parc…

…journée de la patrimoine et pont wilson…

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…safran de touraine…

..au marché bio…

…les rôtisseries…

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…on achète, on goute, on mange, on s’amuse…

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…les poissons de la loire…

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…on mange pas sans du vin de la région…

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…à l’année prochaine…

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…à demain!…

Ronelle


Garden salad…and a wild summer garden

We are off to Coin Perdu in Correze for the rest of the summer. Packing the chickens in their “traveling castle”, the cats in their “coaches”, overloading our little blue Peugeot and we’ll be off with frequent stops to let the farm out the car for fresh air and let fresh air into the car!

Suggestions:

  • There is no recipe for this salad. Anything from the garden and the vegetable basket and the fridge and pantry will make a salad as delicious.
  • I took a handful of  leaves from my herb garden ; rocket, basil, red and green sorrel, chives, and a mixture of salad leaves.Mix with  some cleaned and steamed green string beans, butter beans, petit pois, and shelled fava beans. Add quickly fried calamari or shrimp or any other white meat of your choice, make a vinaigrette and serve with a country bread.
  • Enjoy!

..a summer garden…


I’m saying goodbye to the wild of our Loire summer garden and when I see it again, it will have grown beyond wild…!

I can hear everything whisper the minute we leave: “Hey, they’re gone! We are free! We can grow and proliferate, have wild parties and sow our seeds freely! So come on! Let’s not waste any time!”

And the lavender will fall over from laughter, the weeds will do obscene pole dancing, the rocket will keep the whole herb garden hostage, the fennel will try and reach for the skies and when they realize that they are too old for such adventures, they will just  lie down in peaceful rest. The Virginia creeper will be unstoppable in their usual mischief escaping and going where they’re not allowed and the bay leaf will now make use of their freedom to block everyone who wants to pass them and of course the ivy are just so rebellious in their freedom! I think the only ones who will try and behave, might be the hydrangeas. They will try and set an example, show their true color and just bloom in being “keeper of order”. Unfortunately they will come up against strong armies, like the snails and slugs who will join forces  once they realize the enemy is unprotected! I can just hope that Captain Hedgehog will bring in his friends to come to the rescue. My only regret is that I have neglected the young boxwood hedges the past few weeks.  They didn’t receive my full span of attention like they’re used to and I just fear they might be a bit spiteful and teach me a lesson in some way or other. But I promised them they will be the first ones I pay attention to when I get back…I can only hope the promise will keep them happy?

Well, I am leaving in good faith that they will all live and play together in harmony. I want no fights and no complaints from the neighbors. Other than that, they deserve their time of freedom and fun and I wish my garden a wild and happy summer!

…tartelette and omelette in the wild rocket…

…untrimmed boxwood hedges and stalky fennel…

…a forest of green…

…lavender nodding and hydrangeas in charge…

…trespassing virginia creeper and dropping petals…

…ciao until soon!!…



Oven roasted rosemary lamb…and an ode to the rosemary.

Rosemary and lamb. A perfect combination.

Suggestions:

  1. Other/or mixture of herbs can be used along with rosemary. Rinse them and use them wet to line your oven pan.
  2. Chicken and pork can be used the same way, cut off excess from pork.
  3. It is worth it to invest in a meat thermometer. It gives you your desired stage of cooking and keeps the guessing and disappointment out of oven roasted pieces.
  4. A piece of meat does shrink alot when roasted at high temperature. But it is still tender and juicy. If you want less shrinkage, bake for longer at 150-160 °C.
  5. Temperatures for lamb: (taken from “La grand Larousse gatronomique)
  • rare:  from 60-62 °C (very pink with pink juices still running)
  • medium: from 62-64°C (pink with clear juices running)
  • well done: >64°C (slightly pink to completely cooked/gray)


You smell like rosemary“, said our daughter when she hugged me at the train station. I bloomed. I liked the thought of smelling like rosemary. It says…mother. Care . Childhood. Home. Remembrance.

Later that night, after our dinner of rosemary lamb and catching up on her life as a young working woman, I lay in bed dwelling on her words and my thoughts drifted off. I dreamed how wonderful it would be if our daughters would talk about  us one day along the lines of something like this:

My mother was cook in the kitchen. My father was cook at the barbecue. And between them grew a rosemary bush. I have my own rosemary bush now and when I walk past it and feel my legs brushing the leaves, a heady fragrance envelops me making me feel lightheaded with memories. I smell my mother after her fiddling in the garden among her roses and herbs and I see my father bending over the rosemary bush, cutting and snipping leaves for his lamb cutlets. Our mealtimes were festively spent around a table in the garden, or in the summer kitchen by die barbecue or under the walnut tree overlooking hills or elegantly candle lit in the dining room or simple and homey around the kitchen table. I recall hours of inventing new recipes, cooking and preparing, tasting wines, all the while eating at pretty set tables around laughter and jokes, teasing and chatting and many a times heart-to-heart talks.

I have no doubt, that there where they are now, they still reign as queen of the kitchen and king of the barbecue. And between them, a rosemary bush grows high and lush”.

…Hartman’s handmade rosemary brush- a piece of copper piping, a string pulled through to the other side with a loop…

…snip some rosemary branches and tie the one end of the string around

…pull at the other end of the string, fix the stems inside the copper pipe and cut the tips to form a firm brush -  baste your meat with melted butter, marinade…

…voilà a fresh rosemary brush…

…some rosemary folie for a home- in teapots, in a jug, on a door, on linen, as a kebab, on oven roasted vegetables, with preserved quince…

..until next time!!..


Salmon rolls with roasted red pepper and ricotta…and a street barbeque by the Loire

Summer is a wonderful time to try new recipes. Not to cook. But simply to put together. Myabe a bit of cooking. But only a little. It is too hot and time is too precious to spend in front of a stove. These little rolls are something new to try and it involves no cooking. Delicious and refreshing cold.  Serve either on its own with a drizzle of thick balsamic reduction, or enjoy as a summer lunch with a salad and some wholesome bread.

VF: L’été est parfaite pour s’amuser avec des nouvelles recettes vite et facile à assembler. On cuisine pas. Il fait trop chaud à la cuisinière et il y a trop de choses à faire… Bon d’accord. Peut-être un tout petit peu. Mais c’est tout.  Ces rouleaux de saumon fumé sont intéressants, faciles et vite à faire. Ils sont délicieux froid et servis comme ils sont, avec un filet de réduction de balsamique sur l’assiette òu en salade accompagnée avec un bon pain rustique.

Suggestions:

  • The rolls can be made small like in the recipe, or bigger by leaving the salmon slices uncut. In this case rolling would be a bit easier and the rolls can be cut carefully afterwards ibnto two slices. If you want neat rolls, cut off the ends with a very sharp knife. I prefer a more rustic look.
  • Spread the ricotta cheese on the red pepper for easier spreading  and top then with the spinach leaves.
  • The red pepper can be chopped finely and mixed in with the ricotta cheese for a different version.
  • Prioscutt, basill leaves and roasted oven tomatoes could be an interesting substitute for the red pepper and spinach leaves, giving a more Italian ambiance.
  • Serve two rolls of salmon rolls per person on a plate with a drizzling of thick reduced balsamic syrup, as in the photo.

Our street kicked off the holidays with our yearly bbq across our homes, on the banks of the Loire. A sunny Saturday. A Smoke from the bbq. Set tables. Fresh flowers. Pique-nique baskets. And happy neighbors. Perfect.

Notre rue à commencée cette été dans un esprit de festival. Un barbecue aux bords de la Loire. Un Samedi bien ensoleillé avec une trainée de fumée  qui conduit vers le ciel. Des fleurs gaies. Des paniers éparpillées partout, l’évidence de pique-nique. Et les gents bienheureux. Un midi parfait.


As always, we enjoy our three course. Starting off with some aperitif and a petillante and icy cold rosé wines. We had different kind of cakes, abig favorite in France for an apritif with a sparkling wine. Cake with sauteed leeks and artichokes, cake with goats cheese and tomato.

Et bien entendu, nous nous régalons toujours en commencer avec une petite apéritif et une pétillante de la région. Très froid bien sur.Sur la table était un bon choix de différentes cakes salés; un cake aux poireaux et artichauts…un cake a la tomate et au fromage de chèvre.

..around the aperitif table(autour l’aperitif)…

…the pique nique baskets speak of heavy loads(les paniers de pique-nique)…

…what could possibly hide under that wrapping?(que cache au dessous)…

…someimtes keeping an eye on the pique-nique baskets(garder un œil sur les paniers)…

…baguettes and wine – couldn’t do without!(pas sans baguettes et du vin)..

…choosing seating(òu s’installer à table)...

…but first – time for some conversation among pretty ladies and heavy discussions(des jolies femmes et sérieuses discussions)

…and a far off call while the fire is stretching high(un appel et le feu)…

…and the smoke is a sign of good things to come(la fumée des promesses)

…like this( de ca)…

…and this(et ca)

…and while we wait for those good things from the smoke, we start with our starters…salads and baguette!(salades et baguettes pour entrées en attendant de la viande)…

…everybody is happy(le monde est content)

…and silence sets over the long table(et la silence arrive à la table)

…while we taste and share, discuss and delight(lorsqu’on goute et partage, discute et se régale)

…far from done, we get to our cheeses(loin d’être terminé, on attack les fromages)...

…and clafoutis…of apricots and cherries, and peaches(et ensuite, un clafoutis de pêche.. et d’abricot.. et de cerise)…

…and after our coffee and chocolates, the Loire reclaims its silence once again, the only proof of an afternoon of laughter and good food and happy relionships are  some summer blooms picked from a garden in the street by the Loire…

…Et quand on a terminé nos cafés et chocolats et la Loire règne à nouveau en silence,  il ne reste comme preuve d’un après-midi de bons repas, de bonnes relations, et de joie,  que quelques fleurs d’un jardin de notre rue.



Red berries sorbet and Rue Scellerie in Tours.

In the extreme heat we are experiencing, a sorbet is more refreshing than ice cream… and my favourite…red berries. Combined with some poached summer peaches and a scoop of vanilla/peach ice cream and topped with some chantilly… a peche melba to die for. But for now, only a scoop of sorbet with a min leaf. This is a popular sorbet found at La patisserie de Madame Cheftel in rue Scellerie in Tours. Delicious.

VF: Dans l’extrême chaleur qu’on subi maintenant en France, il n’y a pas mieux qu’un sorbet…fait maison en plus. Un sorbet aux fruits rouges. Pour un dessert somptueux, on fait des pêches pochées, ajoute une glace vanille ou même de la pêche, une boule de sorbet et on sert avec un nuage de chantilly. Et voilà, un délicieux pêche melba! Mais pour l’instant, restons à une boule de sorbet aux fruits rouges, décorée avec un feuille de la menthe. Délicieux!


Recipe from Ice cream and iced desserts(Le grand livre des glaces) – Joanna Farrow & Sara Lewis.

Suggestions:

  • Use other fruit…strawberries, peaches(remove skin), apricots(remove skin)…winter fruits like pear(peeled) combined with a little white  sauterne wine. (Don’t add too much alcohol or else your sorbet won’t freeze.)
  • Add some peaches to the red berries for a more intense flavor.
  • Add some finely chopped mint leaves for a fresh flavor.
  • Stirring the sorbet every now and then when making it by hand, helps break up the ice crystals to give a smoother, creamier sorbet.
  • during the warm summer days, keep the ice cream maker out of heat or warm air when making the sorbet, it will help  your ice cream/sorbet reaching the iced staged quicker.

Rue Scellerie is one of my favorite streets in Tours. It walks up to the cathedral where I always make a stop and it passes by my favourite patisserie de Madame Cheftel. It has antique stores, book stores, our Grand Theatre, exclusive boutiques, a toy shop with GORGEOUS toys – a far cry from toys are us! Of course a chocolaterie, one or two salons de thé, an art galery, a park with a fountain and it ends at the cathedral.

VF: Rue Scellerie est une de mes préférées a Tours. Je prends si  fréquemment la route, fais un arrêt à la pâtisserie de la charmante Madame Cheftel pour un thé et un petit gâteau et continue ma vadrouille, passe les boutiques exclusives, un mignon magasin de jeux d’enfants, un chocolaterie, une galerie des arts, prend une repose auprès de la fontaine dans le parc, et finis à la Cathédrale de Tours.


…our Grand Theatre, dates from about 1794, was destroyed by a fire in 1883. Everything was burnt down to the ground except for four walls. In 1889 the doors were opened again, just to be closed by the world war I in 1914 and then again for world war II and reopened again in 1939, after the war(le grand Theatre d,epoque de 1700, ferme pour les deux guerres du monde et réouvert dans 1939)...

…a street filled with  old book stores(pleine de librairies)

…and antique stores… and brocantes(antiquités et brocantes)…

…and a scary old lady in her VERY old ancienne book store, not taking nonsense from anyone and I always first peep through the window to see if she is out, before I enter(une vieille dame d’une nature un peu effrayante dans  une librairie ancienne, et avant d’entrer dans sa librairie, je jète un œil pour vérifier qu’elle n’est pas présente!))…

…a little store with an adorable proprietesse who has lovely old curtains made from old fabric and who doesn’t want to sell her bicycle(un magasin avec  des rideaux faits de vieille tissu et un vélo pas à vendre, dommage)

…shops with old medals and coins for the men and old jewellery for the ladies(des magasin au goût des homme et ceux-là avec des bijoux pour plaire aux  femmes.

…tea and cake at Madame Cheftel’s Patisserie – having her shop for already 29 years and always greeting one with her chic short hair, wearing her black apron, her wide smile and a little joke at the ready…how can we not stop by and indulge in her delicacies(un goûter chez Madame Cheftel qui a son pâtisserie déjà 29 ans et elle est toujours charmante, chaleureuse, souriante avec un air chic aux cheveux courtes et elle court partout en tablier noir, folle d’énergie)


…which already wink at you in her window display(les gourmandises nous séduisent en vitrine)


…and then off to browse again the  every-4th- sunday-brocante in rue scellerie; small and intimate, but with an interesting find every time among all the(et voilà la brocante de chaque quatrième Dimanche, très agréeable malgré le petit nombre des exposants) …

…stuff – displayed on the ground, or sometimes not so stable tops(on fouille par terre, sur les tables bancale)…

…but always inviting one to lean in for that closer peak(on regarde de prés) …

…or to simply just walk and say hi to the brocanteurs, who endure bitter cold, hoping optimistically they will make a sale(on discute avec les brocanteurs, qui endurent parfois des températures sévères avec l’optimisme d’en faire au moins une vente ou deux)  …

Bon weekend et à la prochaine!


A summer apricot soup amuse bouche and une fête d’été!

An apricot soup says SUMMER! in so many ways.In its bright yellow color we find the warmth of mid summer days. The flavor has us  smelling the shadows of big overhanging tree branches…that afternoon nap after the pic-nique. And the taste…the taste that makes us hear les cigales in the heat of the day, see les guêpes hoovering over all the sweet delicacies of our al fresco meals… So. If you’re in the mood for a little summer heat and holiday…take to an apricot soup, close your eyes and see yourself  stretched out in the fields, chewing on a grass sprig, dozing off  with a heavy summer laze and then just lose yourself in being the happiest soul walking this earth!

*Une petite soupe d’abricot est indispensable pour l’été. Sa couleur nous donne la chaleur des journées dorées. Dans son saveur on sent les ombres des rameaux d’un grand noyer et on a envie de  s’allonger et fermer les yeux pour un petit moment magique. Et le goût…le goût nous donne l’impression d’entendre les cigales, de voir les guêpes qui dérangent la tranquilité d’un repas al fresco. Alors. Goûtons cette petite soupe et laissons notre imaginaire nous transporter vers un champ où on s’allonge dans l’herbe et nos pensées disparaissent dans les nuages de rêves et de bonheur.



Suggestions:

  • Try this also with soft ripe peaches.
  • Use a rose wine instead of a white.
  • for a completely vegetarian dish, replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
  • Serve with a fresh traditional baguette, topped with some melted camembert cheese.

VF:

  • Substituez avec des pèches.
  • Remplacez le vin blanc par une rosé.
  • Pour la version végétarienne, replacer le bouillon de poulet par un bouillon de légumes.
  • Servez accompagnée d’une baguette ancienne et son camembert fondu.

…un brunch d’été…

With two weeks left before the summer holidays, it is now or never to have a fete d’ete with all our friends before they all take off with their straw hats  and tanning lotions. Let’s make it special. Make it fun. Make it beautiful and dreamy. Summer. Gay with color. Inviting.

*Dans deux semaines on arrive au début de vacances d’été. Il reste donc qu’un petit bout de temps pour se régaler une toute dernière fois avec nos amies, avant qu’on prenne la route, armée de nos crèmes solaires et les espadrilles! Allé! Faisons une fête spéciale. Gracieuse. Chaleureuse.  Merveilleusement habillée avec les couleurs gaies de l’été.

…rustic romance for a brunch…

Choose a corner in the garden.

On cherche un coin dans le jardin.

…a view on summer…

Go overboard on flowers and plants. Don’t spend money on buying flowers. Pick all kinds of greenery and even herbs and don’t overlook the beauty of weeds all around you. Ask a friend for trimmings which are happening now to pump new life into plants. Buy some seedlings or summer plants instead that can be planted afterward in the garden. They come at cheap prices everywhere now and buy them in trays. Set the trays as is on your tables and in your serving corners. Tie some rafia or some sisal around for a ristic garden look. And don’t forget to send a few plants in a cute container home with your friends, which they can plant in a pot or their own garden. And DON”T do what I did….have so much fun that you forget to give each friend her plants at going home time!

*Il y’a un choix exubérant de  fleurs et  de plantes. Ne dépensez pas d’argent sur les fleurs en commerce. Elles sont libres et abondantes tout autour de nous. Pensez aux herbes, aux feuillages, même les mauvaises herbes qui poussent sans cesse avec une beauté plus subtile. Surtout on a des voisins et des amis qui font une nettoyage de saison en ce moment, donnant une nouvelle vie saisonnier au jardin. Passez par la jardinerie et achetez des barquettes de fleurs d’été, qui peut servir pour la décoration de table et  comme cadeaux pour nos invités, voir plantée dans leurs propres coins du jardin.

…pétunias in trays and all things garden…

…serving corners…

…umbreallas at the ready…

Have some colorful umbrellas close by for that urgent run in that rain to the bathroom! And in the same thinking frame…remember some suncream for those who prefer sitting in the sunny side, have an ecofriendly trap for the “gueppes” so you can  lunch in peace and provide lots of cool water if you are lucky to have a blasting hot summers day, but if not…a cozy little throw can provide some body heat if your day is cool and cloudy like we had on Friday!

*N’oubliez pas les jolies parapluies pour les courses sous la pluie ou pour se rendre à la maison. Et pourquoi pas une crème solaire pour ceux qui adorent s’installer en plein soleil. Une piège bio pour les omniprésentes guêpes sera un petit geste attentionné. Voir dans le cas d’une canicule, l’eau fraîche à boire nous éviterons de tomber dans un sommeil impolie. Pourtant, dans mon cas ce Vendredi dernier…cette scenario était impossible, car on est ici en France toujours capturé dans l’âge de glace!

..knee blankets and flowers do go together…

…cherries, freshly picked from a friends garden, a garden hat and pretty flower…

…garden tools and a warming fire…

Have your guests bring their favorite dish to the table. We had delicious quiches and gorgeous salads, which I hope to bring to you soon with the permission of my friends, we finished with magnificent  cheese a friend got fresh from the market earlier the morning and we feasted on local rose’s and homemade moelleux wine with our strawberry soup.

*Les amies apprécient toujours contribuer à la table, n’hésitez pas à demander une bonne quiche ou une salade gourmande, comme elles sont faites pour notre brunch. Puis, on a terminé le brunch avec du fromage du marché, une soupe de fraises pour un dessert et ce festin était accompagné par une bonnes rosé d’Evres et un moelleux fait maison par ma gentille voisine Claudine!

A fete d’ete indeed. More than that. An uplifiting 5 hours spent with lovely ladies, funny ladies, creative ladies. Friends. Summer. Good food. And so traditionally french,  we tasted, examined, commented, complimented, changed the recipe, suggested alternative ingredients, discussed accompanying wines, and simply savored each helping. 

*Voila une vraie fete! En fait, beaucoup plus que ça. C’était quelques 5 heures passées dans la compagnie de femmes très sympas, drôles et créatives. Les amies. L’été. Une bonne table. Et comme la tradition dicte toujours en France, nous avons goûté et fait des propositions de différentes  ingrédients. On a testée, examinée, changée les recettes, discutée les vins comme des pros… bref…un après-midi savoureux et chaleureux!

Then we said our goodbyes and gave our “bisous” with promises of outings to chateaux…and a lunch.. To show gardens…and a lunch. To walks around town…and a lunch. To hiking trails…and a lunch. To painting days…and a lunch. to music concerts…and a lunch. The moral of the story? We have to seize the moment.
So c’mon! Deck the garden, load the table with fresh produce! Call up your friends! Chill the wine! Life is short…grab onto it with in a fork in the one hand and a joie de vivre in the other!

*Nous avons faites nos bisous avec de sacrées promesses de se réunir en visites des châteaux…et un lunch. Des promenades en ville…et un lunch. Des rencontres Van goghe-esques…et un lunch. Les concerts musiques…et un lunch. Alors. On comprend qu’une chose. Il faut profiter de chaque moment!

Allez! appelons nos amies!Ouvrons le portail! Faisons le marché! Décapitons le champagne! La vie passe trop vite…profitons-en avec une fourchette et un joie de vivre triomphant!

…passez une bonne été et à la prochaine!…


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