summer

Baguette aux fruits rouges et jambon de Parme(baguette with red berries and Pama ham)..and a sign for every shop.

It happens to all of us: that day when the house is empty but the people hungry. If you have a baguette at hand(like all French homes do), some kind of fruit, like red berries(which you should have, because they are packed with health benefits!) and some ham somewhere( if you dig deep enough, I’m sure you’ll find a substitute!)…well, then you have a meal and a great one at that. Good enough for a snack or a lunch or a brunch or a light dinner.

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I am not giving any formal recipe for this baguette aux fruits rouges, it is all up to you own imagination. see the pincée de fleur des sel for some guidelines..

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use baguettes and cut in half so you have a solid “base” which helps prevent the bread from going soggy.
  • I used a cheese with walnuts as a spread , added the red berries of my choice, drizzled with olive oil maple syrup and a little lemon juice, topped with thin slices of parma ham and grilled quickly  in the oven for a minute or two.  Serve warm with extra chopped walnuts and maple syrup.
  • Serve with a green salad if preferred.

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blueberries, black currants, red gooseberreis, raspberries, blackberries

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..a sign for every shop..

board signs 1959x2011I am sure  you marvel at all the interesting sign shops wherever you go. Well, me too! The most exciting ones to the most boring ones. sometimes a boring one will actually push me to enter, just to have me praise my perception of the shop being as uninteresting as its sign. Or maybe to prove myself wrong and that I might just find some treasure…

Whichever way, a sign outside a shop lures us inside. And yes, there has surely also been the disappointment in a store’s interior  with a charming sign flirting outside. Still, we enter a store with expectation after looking up and seeing its sign…

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Some are  brightly colored, tongue in cheek, funny… will they invite you in?

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Some are not very indicative of what its store is all about, but that could be good tactics…

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Some are regional and they have to really be original to stand out..

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Some plays on our desire to remember the past…

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Some  very elegant …

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And those with a personal name has you want to discover more…

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then there are those you have no clue what might await inside but you love what the name represents…

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And there are those for special customers…

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And some are so often hidden in lovely greenery, it comes with the profession…

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Proof goes to show…hidden in the foliage…

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Sometimes though, high and clearly marked in old script..!

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And then there are the handmade ones to suit every occasion…(so by the way, this was mine many years ago with an exhibition in my gallery at home)

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Mine again…in the atelier…just to distinguish between the art studio and  the “pretty”art  exhibition!

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Originality abounds!

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In the wine area a multitude of signs direct you to the multiple domains and cellars and wine shops. This is the grande grappe de raisin just opposite from where we lived and was always a beacon.

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These following ones were all in close proximity when we lived in Montlouis sur Loire.

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Cave of course meaning in this case wine cellar….the bunch of grapes is there to make sure you don’t arrive with your climbing gear.

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An oringal way of luting passers by to a wine cellar and regional products.

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With this sign I had a personal affair….right behind it is a parking where I always went through to get into the main road. this sighn always blocked my view to check for oncoming traffic, so I had to get out and move it back as you see it standing now, got back into my car, checked my left and rights and into the traffic I went. Not quietly and patiently, but rather doorslamming and sighing and armslinging and a lot of ZUT, ZUT, ZUT! It happened every day for  the whole time we lived there. It is just one of those things. Instead of going over to the cellar  and fixing it, I just moved the thing each time with a French attitude. I miss it.

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These cute board signs are just simply fun.

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“I Invite you in to dine and wine, don’t mind my strict  appearance!”

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At the boucherie in Beaulieu you can even buy salads…

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With all these signs, I always sign a salut to you

à bientôt

Ronelle


Tarte rustique aux nectarines(rustic nectarine tart).. et le jardin de “Ronelle”

We have harvested some delicious nectarines from our newly planted nectarine tree. Our first apricots and cherries were stolen by someone..I will have to take stronger measurements against the feathered folk next year…

This rustic tart is prepared in a jiff, bakes 40 minutes, just enough time to get the coffee ready, clean up and call everybody to the table under the old oak tree.

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La recette;

tarte aux nectarines recipe-001

 

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Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use other fruits like apricots, or apples, pears, peaches, plums…
  • Use pine nuts or pistachios instead of almonds.
  • Be careful not to use too strong a honey like lavender honey which will completely overpower the tart.
  • Serve warm with a dollop of créme fraiche, or a dollop of ice cream on hot days.
  • When the flesh of the nectarines stick to the seed, place the nectarine on its stem side and cut a cheek on each wide side of the nectarine from top to bottom, close to the seed. Cut each cheek in half to get neat quarters. Cut off the rest of the flesh on each narrow side of the seed which already resembles en quarter.

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Yesterday  it was time for the new mother hens and their chicks to be upgraded to the chicken coop. When the chicks are born, I always take them and mamans from the chicken coop and keep them aside  in a basket with me where I know they are safe and I get to enjoy the chicks more as well. Every moring they are taken outside and the flap lifted and they scurry out, happy to see light(and me, I hope) and every evening they move into their beds themselves, I close the flap and bring them inside. After a three weeks or so, when the chicks are strong enough and they start walking with the rest of the flock, I walk them to the chicken coop late afternoons, have them investigate and integrate en find their spot among the others. This takes a few evenings, because the rankings have now been disturbed in the poulailler and new ones have to be established. Never a dull moment.

..les deux mamans et leurs petits poussins..

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..la poulailler “secondaire” ou elles partent en “vacances” (the holiday home where they spend their vacation)…

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..le gardien devant la poulailler (guarding the chicken coop)..

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In “le jardin de Ronelle” everything is a bit wild in July. The weeds win me over a bit, the lawns need constant mowing and trimming and deadheading drag behind. The chicks appear and begs for attention, the rabbits multiply and eat my salads… the tomatoes are growing like Jack’s beanstalk and we can keep up with the abundance of courgettes! Not to forget my constant desire to plant more and change again and again.

..les lapins n’attendent pas une invitation, elles sont trop à l’aise déja(the rabbits don’t await an invitation , thye just make themselves at home)..

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 At times like these, I just sit back and start focusing on the corners and little details that work together to make a garden. Some small corners and moments that give me pleasure. They tell a story in their own way.

..mais mignons quand même (but so cute)…

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.Quelques morceaux de porcelaine voisinent un pelargonium odorant dans la mini serre ( old pieces of porcelain next to a scented géranium in a mini greenhouse)..

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..les chaises et les lanternes (chairs and lanterns)…

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..mon chéri picking some nectarines..

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..J’adore mes pelargoniums odorants sur la table ( I love my scented geraniums on our outdorro table)..

 

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Ice cream is a big favorite in our home. Usually I have my one or two scoops in a little bowl and mon chéri takes over the rest of the contaziner. As you see here, Carte d’or being very popular here. Apparently Carte d’Or saw the light in 1978 in France with only 5 flavors and their latest flavors arr absolutely just to die for..I am close to not handing over the container to mon chéri! See Carte d’Or here.

..et surtout la glace!..

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..mes agapanthes bleue..

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 ..dipladania blanc et les lavandes à l’arriére plan ( dipladenia agains a backdrop of lavenders)..

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 ..L’heure de siésta!

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 ..un verre de vin, une magazine et la tranquilité (a glass of wine a magazine and calm)..

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à la prochaine fois

Ronelle

 


Tartine aux Courgettes …and “les jardins de Colette”.

When your potager starts exploding with courgettes, it is time to come up with all sorts of ways to eat those courgettes without getting bored. But even so, by the end of summer, I feel like a courgette and can’t even look at one, let alone eat it. Courgettes are more flavorful when they are young and nothing needs to be added to give them moire flavor. These tartines can be served s a starter, a lunch with a salad, or as an apéro before dinner..and come to think of it, why not pack it for a pique-nique?

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La recette:

tartines aux courgettes 4857x4415 4857x4415Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Add some goat’s cheese or feta cheese to the tartines.
  • Leave the toasts and serve as a tagliatelle pasta, topped with a fillet of fish of your choice and a salad.
  • Make croutons instead of toasts and add along with the grilled courgettes to a salad. Top with dry roasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese and a mustard vinaigrette.

 

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Les jardins de Colette is a large botanical garden at the foot of the chateau Castel-novel, where the French writer Colette lived with her 2nd husband Henry de Jouvenel and her daughter Bel-Gazou. The gardens were created in 2008 and depict her tumultuous life which centered around her insatiable desire for creating. You will surely know her for her novels Chéri in 1920 and of course Gigi from 1944, upon which the musical film was based and in which Leslie Caron played Gigi. Colette’s real name was actually Sidonie-Gabrielle , her last name/surname being Colette. But I’m her to show you the garden dedicated to her…so, to read about Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, you can pick and choose a site on Google.

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Some trinkets in the store…and I found their little truck quite cute…and a rose named after Colette in 1995…

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…Veronique flowers in abundance in the garden of her childhood in Bourgogne…and bees in abundance….

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..le jardin de Rozven in Bretagne was bought by her friend, Missy, in 1910  and for 10 years afterwards Colette and her family still spent their summers at Rozven.

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…a potager, part of remembering her childhood..

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..a labyrinth in the shape of a papillon,  where kiddies are told stories while finding their way to the end..

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..some annuals planted in the jardin de Saint- Sauveur-en -Puisaye  in Bourgogne...

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..an english garden..”aussi libre qu’elle”..as free in spirit as she was…

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…a little refuge for insects..

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Colette with her brother in childhood…

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…her love for animals clearly comes across in her books..

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..la coccinelle and le papillon..les amis du jardin!

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In the Correze gardin at Castel-Novel a little cabane/gloriettes was constructed from willow branches..

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..The olive trees and lavenders from the Provence garden..

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..a bit of freshness with a canal of water and fountain..

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In the rose garden her favorite rose can be found…Cuisse de Nymphe

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..as well as one of my favorites...Honore de Balzac…

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And lastly, a lane of tilleuls trees to remind of her last years spent in Paris, where her windows opened onto the gardens of the palais Royal…

 

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With something cool to drink, we finished this tour through the gardens of Colette and it was time to return to reality. I felt a vibrant kinship with her and her creativity, her desire to live to the full, her love for nature and animals and maybe one day I can retrace  her steps to really experience what her life was like…

à la prochaine fois!

Ronelle


Grilled tomato and goats cheese squares..and Bretagne(Brittany) in June

We are outside. Non stop. The weather couldn’t be more perfect. The days are wonderfully warm, sunny. The cigales are crazily announcing summer in the meadows. I am crazily happy.

Taking our meals outside in summer is a given. Preparing it outside is a given too. These tomato and goats cheese apéros ( appetizers)do it both ways. It is prepared by the barbeque fire. It is grilled on the fire. It is eaten by the fire. An ice cold dry rosé wine and life is crazily wonderful.

croustillant de tomate et chevre 2861x2353La recette:

tomato and goats cheese squares

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use feta cheese instead of goat’s cheese.
  • Use feuille de brick, if available, which is not as thin and delicate as phyllo pastry.
  • Add some flaked fish of your choice or add a sardine, in which case you can use dill or coriander instead of basil.
  • Use other herbs of your choice..
  • Leave out the tomato and add fresh spinach leaves and dry roasted pine nuts for a more Greek flavour.
  • To serve as something sweet with coffee after  barbeque…roll chocolates, chopped nuts of your choice and a mint leaf  in the pastry sheets, treat the same way on the coals and enjoy with coffee around the fire.

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Place at an appropriate distance above the coals on a grill.

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Brush with a home made rosemary brush and olive oil.

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We visited friends in Bretagne and were treated in typical Breton fashion to a wealth of cuisine Bretonne. Seafoods galore, vegetables, notably carrottes Nantaises( of which I have planted in my potager), crépes and galettes, sablés, far breton, quatre quart, kouign amann, cidre, beignets, butter, butter, butter… It is truly a good thing we don’t live in  Bretagne for I would have rolled instead of walked. Fortunately, we did a lot of walking to fight the calories. I invite you now on some of our promenades around Rennes and the seaside villages of Tharon and Pornic.

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Promenades en mer…boat trips.

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The port of Pornic is quaint and with the perfect summer weather we had, the whole world crept out of their shells comme les escargots de leurs coquilles(like snails from their shells).

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Le blanc du nil is a well known chain store in the French seaside villages. They sell only white cotton and linen clothes and I love it for the prices and the loose summer dresses, shirts and slacks and skirts. And of course the all white look makes you feel cool and light. And a little chic too…

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The walkway was filled with people, basking in summer sun, seeking out some dappled shade and licking dripping ice creams. We did too.

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A lonesome Canna lily adding some charm to an ordinary signpost indicating the way to the hotel de Ville of Pornic.

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Back in Tharon, it was time for eating again, something we did too much of , but  enjoyed so much! The boulangerie Tharonnaise is comfortably just a walk down the road where one doesn’t mind queuing for all the bakes delicacies I mentioned above.

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One of those wonderful delicious sinful and dangerous cakes, is the kouign amann, for which Bretagne is known for. I DO plan on baking it, sharing it with you, I REALLY DO! But only after I lost the 3 kg I picked up after eating it in Bretagne! Typical Ronelle style, one slice was not enough…It is literally a butter cake and a little challenging on the making-side: made  with bread dough and folded like puff pastry with loads of butter and sugar which, during the baking process, gives you a devilishly, deliciously, flaked caramelized cake.

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One of our outings was also just down the road…a regular vide grenier in Tharon. As you can see below..one man’s junk becomes another man’s fortune. We found some fortunes there too…

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Of course we visited the beach with its colourful cabanes which mostly belong to the inhabitants of Tharon and gets unlocked every season to let out the sunscreens and chairs and umbrellas and beachballs…

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As  is shown below…the beach umbrella and bags and towels and  kiddies were let out of the colourful cabanes.. well, maybe not the kiddies…

Bretagne in June  3638x2630I fell in love with these original fishing platforms, les pêcheries et leurs cabanes

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A close up..

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A lunch  of langoustines, and lemon mayonnaise with  baguettes from la boulangerie and accompanied by a crisp white wine.

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In Rennes the géraniums on the windowsills paraded shamelessly  in their beauty and gaiety.

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We had a schedule to follow in Rennes, a to-do list that kept us on a quick run. Nonetheless we found the time for a pit stop in the centre ville to have un café créme et un allongé, while we drooled at seeing the bar à crépe which was just opening its doors early morning. Next time.

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Centre ville  in Rennes.

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Hope you had fun on this promenade. And I hope you on your turn drooled at the tomato and goat’s cheese apéro’s. Maybe enough to make them. I should probably have given you an exciting recipe from Bretagne, as the post asks for….but what are rules made for, if not to be broken? I greet you as always….

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…à la prochaine fois…

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


Carpaccio de courgette..and summer evenings.

Our potager is bursting with courgettes and we can’t keep up with eating them. With vegetables one doesn’t have to do much in summer, the vegetables are good just on their own. Which is why any  salad or carpaccio is a good idea.

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Recette:

  1. Cut 4 small to medium courgettes into thin slices. Layer onto a plate and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and leave aside for 30 minutes to marinate.
  2. To serve: Divide the slices among 4 plates by spreading them evenly on each plate. Drizzle with some more olive oil and lemon juice, a teaspoon of sundried tomato paste, and a drizzle of balsamic syrup. Season with fleur de sel and freshly milled black pepper.  Add some olives of your choice, shavings of Parmesan cheese and finish off with rocket/arugula  leaves.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use green pesto instead of the tomato paste.
  • Add dry roasted pine nuts.
  • Use small black Greek olives.
  • Add chopped sundried tomatoes or semi-oven roasted tomatoes.
  • Use crumbled goats cheese instead of Parmesan cheese.

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Summer evenings at Coin Perdu

Our evenings are spent around the fire..we start off with a glass of icy cold rosé while the fire is lit and we munch on a little apéritif, a must to keep my legs from going jello from the wine. It is something quick and easy..fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, baguette slices with some sliced sauccisson of the region, or melted Camembert over the fire with baguette slices, or fresh radishes with salt(a big favorite!).

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In the meantime, while the fire is coming on,  mon chéri still fiddles with some activities around the garden, like mowing the lawn, feeding apples to the horses who are allowed late afternoons to graze on the lawns, cleaning the fountain orother small tasks around the house.

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I am mostly sunken  deep into an Adirondeck by the fire in the shade of the tilleul tree. My feet are up and I have a book in my hand. It is my favorite time of the day and I savor every minute. War will break loose if someone expects me to do anything else than reading my book, sipping my rosé and enjoying the early evening ambiance. At that hour am in my zone and refuse to be disturbed.

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After dinner, we linger as late as we can around the fire. As the coals burn away and the horizon turns dark, we start moving away from the fire, lazy and slowly. It is time to call it a day.

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**And some summer music for these summer evenings…

Girls in their summer clothes – Bruce Springsteen

Enjoy!!

..à bientôt..

Ronelle


Summer peach soup with red berries..and Provence

In midsummer, when the sun is blazing hot and the cigales are singing away, we don’t have much desire for eating, except for indulging in ice cream. A cold simmer peach soup is perfect for those days and brings a bit of welcome change to the ice cream menu.

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La recette:

  1. Bring to the boil 1 liter of water with 1 vanilla pod, 200 g sugar and the rind of 1 lemon. Remove from the heat, add a handful of fresh mint leaves and set aside to cool.
  2. Peel and cut 6 peaches of your choice into slices.
  3. Add to the warm syrup and leave to cool down completely before storing in the fridge for about 4 hours to infuse.
  4. Serve cold in glasses or bowls and add a handful of fresh red berries of your choice to the soup(optional).
  5. Decorate with fresh mint leaves and serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6 people.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • I used a mixture of white and yellow peaches.
  • Macerate the berries with some sugar before adding to the soup, since they may be too sour for the soup.
  • Add the berries on a little kebab/cocktail stick and stick into the soup, to eat separately.
  • Leave the berries if so desired.
  • Replace the mint with lemon verbena for something different.
  • Serve in frozen glasses for an icy effect.

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The signature of Provence is its white limestone..in the countryside, the hills,  in the built walls, the drywalls, the houses, the pavings ,  the flowerbeds, the villages… Some of them new and some weathered handsomely by the mistral  and rains of centuries.

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I love an atmospheric window..

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Clearly seen in this image below, is the different types of stone used, maybe at different times by different craftsmen.

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Just look at that stone…beautiful non?..

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A  stone staircase between these beautiful stone walls, going up and up and up…

Provence 2013 27-06-2013 18-27-23 3139x4349A typical Provencal door..

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A flowerbed by a front door, typical in the small villages with no gardens..

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Lovely shutters and vigne vierge creeper..

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Sedum growing on the rooftiles..totally content in the heat, like me…

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Holly hocks…an old world flower and one of my favorites..

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Gay colour in an ochre coloured flower container..

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Bonnieux is known for its brocantes..

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..which overlooks the valley..

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A window peeking from above a fig tree..Provence 2013 29-06-2013 11-30-09 3212x4619

Lavenders on the windowsill..

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A cloche against a perfect Provencal sky…Provence 2013 29-06-2013 11-46-17 3238x3877And lastly,  a sunset goodbye …

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So, with these images it is back to reality here at Coin Perdu, where summer is in full swing..and I don’t want it to end!

à la prochaine

Ronelle


Roasted red pepper tart..and lavenders of Provence I..

Red peppers are synonym with the Mediterranean and it is one of my favorite vegetables, raw or otherwise. We grow them in our potager(vegetable garden) rows of them..and they find their way to our table in every way possible. Une petite tarte, using ready made puff pastry or home made if you are so handy or ordered from your boulanger, which is how I prefer to  do it, is one way of serving these delicious vegetables.

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La recette:

  1. Wash  4 red peppers.
  2. Remove the seeds and cut them into thin strips. Place in an ovenproof dish and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season with salt and milled black pepper. Add three twigs of fresh rosemary and two lemon wedges.
  3. Roast in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  5. Roll out 4 rectangles of puff pastry to about 1mm thick and 8x16cm long. Roll the sides to the inside to form a little rolled side. Prick the inside with a fork, cover with some baking paper and weigh down with baking beans. Bake in a preheated oven at 200° C for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for another 5 minutes.
  6. Arrange the roasted peppers on the prepared pastry shells. Add some cubed or crumbed feta cheese and dry roasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with red pepper corns and drizzle the pan juices from the roasted red peppers over the filling. Add some rosemary twigs and place under the grill for about 7 -10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and serve warm with a dollop of créme fraîche and a  large green salad.

Serves 4 people

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use courgettes instead of red peppers, or a mixture of both.
  • Add some halved spring onions to the red peppers before roasting.
  • Use goats cheese instead of feta cheese.
  • Serve with homemade balsamic sorbet.
  • Spoon some pesto on the base of the pastry shell before adding the red peppers.
  • Turn into a dessert by spooning some sweetened mascarpone cheese on the bottom of the pastry shell, cover with red peppers and drizzle with honey and chopped mint.

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..the lavenders of Provence..

Mon chéri treated me to a couple of days in Provence. I don’t have to say anything, except that it was pure joy. It was so short, but my senses were alive to its maximum every minute.

Apart from the wonderful Provencal sun, the delicious meals on sunny terraces, the Provencal rosé wines, I did indeed manage to complete 7 sketches, while mon chéri patiently waited and used the time to play chess. Since our time was so short, I didn’t want to spend too much time on sketching though, so all I wanted was to capture a bit of the ambiance of our short stay. I think I  achieved that and I  am so chuffed. So chuffed indeed. If you’d like to see the sketches, you can pop over to Africantapestry.

I love lavender. Just simply love it. Not in foods. Not in soaps. Not in perfumes. not in my closets. But in pots and in the fields and gardens. That is the only place I can appreciate its fragrance, which is too strong and overpowering anywhere else. But the joy of lavender and its fragrance in a field or in a garden…nothing else comes close.

If only I could pass along the fragrance with these images…but it is all up to you and your imagination. Stretch out your hand and touch the blooms, hear the bees, see the butterflies, sniff the air, feel the sun and dwell in the heady fragrance…

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The soil varies between the different fields, but they all have three things in common…altitude, sun and poor soil.

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A lavender field snaking over the hill into a row of Provence cypress.

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At the abbaye de Senanque, the lavenders aren’t fully open yet, it being a different variety. But I love the faded blue which harmonizes with the gentle quietude of the abbaye and the greys of its old stone building.Provence 2013 28-06-2013 14-22-24 4928x3264

Some homes with their “designer entrances”.Provence 2013 29-06-2013 10-27-12 4928x3264

A beautiful salmon coloured mas with its field of lavender and adjacent vineyard.Provence 2013 29-06-2013 10-50-08 4928x3264

Small fields, larger, tiny, among wheat, beside the roads…everywhere.

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Where there is lavender, there you’ll find bees and butterflies!

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Green vines, purple lavenders and red soil…the colours of Provence.

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One of my favorite photos with a scene of all my favorite things..nature with its rocky area, the olive grove, the lavender, the hills, the colors, the smells..

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A quilt of color in the valley just below Bonnieux; lavender fields, wheat fields and vineyards.

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*Keep an ear to the ground for the next post on Provence..until then..

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Salmon, potato and mussel salad..and a contribution to pie-ography

Nothing makes a better salad than leftovers.During spring, when all attention is focused on the garden and restoration work on the house, all sorts of salads with leftover meats and fish and vegetables make life so much easier. It is also a time when I stock my pantry heavier than usual with some interesting condiments to add zest to the salads without spending hours in the kitchen in the evenings. It is typically additions like sundried tomatoes, ready made pestos and tapenades, marinated mussels and oysters, canned sardines and anchovies, mackerels, beans and split peas.

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For this easy peezy, light and delicious salad, I used the left over salmon and steamed potatoes from the previous evening’s dinner and turned it into a salad with all sorts of other goodies coming from the pantry and the fridge. I served it with toasted pita bread and  a cream and dill sauce. What can I say…“cetait un régal tout simple”!

Salmon, potato and mussel salad.

  1. Heat some leftover salmon(flaked) and potatoes(cut into chunks). Add some chopped spring onions and a handful of currants.
  2. Arrange a mix of fresh salad leaves and herbs on a large platter.
  3. Sprinkle with nuts and marinated mussels and sliced marinated tomatoes and artichoke hearts.
  4. Make a cream sauce of a finely chopped small shallot, handful of chopped dill, a cup of cream or créme fraîche and a TBS of mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon juice.
  5. Top with the warm(not hot) salmon mix. Sprinkle with chopped dill.
  6. Serve immediately with pita breads or a country bread and some extra sauce on the side.

Une pincée de sel:

  • Use a good mixture of herb salad leaves.
  • Use mushrooms instead of the fish, if you don’t like fish.
  • When using chicken, replace the dill int eh sauce with basil pesto or freshly sliced basil.

A contribution to Pie•ography..

Last year I’ve been asked by the creative Jo Packham, creator of Where women cook, to contribute, along with 38 other women, a recipe to her book, Pie•ography. The project was to create a pie which best described each author and write a short biography along with it. I found it quite a challenge, because talking about myself isn’t something I am comfortable with. Nothing wrong with revealing a little bite here and a little pinch there, but sitting down and directly saying: “..and so, his is who I am…”  – THAT is tough. BUT…I finally got something on paper and created my pie..so I can tap myslef on the shoulder and say ;..“not too bad, Ronelle, not too bad at all..!”

For fun, I listed 30 tongue in cheek- things you don’t know about me. Read at the bottom if you’re interested.

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Thank you to Jo for inviting me to join in..it is a great book and I am honoured to be in the company of highly talented and educated and ambitious women in this book, of whom Jo is of course one. Her creativity is never ending. for me it was a fun and exciting  project to be part of!

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30 things you don’t know about me:

  1. My worst characteristic is impatience.
  2. My best one is enthusiasm.
  3. I can lift my one eyebrow and drop the other at the same time.
  4. My ankles are rather thick
  5. My feet are quite cute.
  6. I used to trust people easily.
  7. I now put my trust rather in animals.
  8. I am impulsive and it gets me into trouble.
  9. I don’t fit into my wedding dress any more, but it doesn’t bother me.
  10. I  don’t fit into my bathing suit and that bothers me.
  11. I still want to do parachute jumping, but I hate flying.
  12. I don’t like sharing the licking bowl when baking.
  13. I hate washing dishes. I also hate stacking the dishwasher. I see no light.
  14. My mom used to say my bladder is situated just under my eyes. It takes very little to make me cry.
  15. I laugh easily and loudly.
  16. I have perfected the puppy eye flutter. Mon chéri is completely defenseless against it.
  17. I hate conflict of any kind.
  18. I don’t believe the truth has to be told at any cost. Sometimes the truth serves no purpose..
  19. I have a great sense of humour. It is my life line.
  20. I love to learn, but I hate to be taught.
  21. I don’t mind making a fool of myself, but I don’t like to be made a fool of by others.
  22. It only takes one glass of wine to have me make a fool of myself.
  23. I  don’t answer a telephone.
  24. I am a coffee snob.
  25. I have two experiences in my past which I can’t forgive and forget. They still influence my self image to this day.
  26. I am a nomad, I have to move on every few years.
  27. Autumn makes me  sad.
  28. When I am upset I get into bed and cover my head.
  29. I am a Leo.
  30. The sun is my oxygen.

You can find the recipe and how I worked my way to it here.

Pi•ography  can be ordered from Amazon.com.

If you want more information, don’t hesitate to contact me(details in my sidebar)

So, until next time…

Amusez vous bien et soyez sage sage!

(Have fun and stay out of trouble!)

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


Gaspacho! with crisp Iberian ham and a walk in Brive la Gaillarde, Corréze.

Yesterday was hot. Very very hot. I thought I was going to melt. Here in the southwest of France we are “au niveua 2 du canicule” (level 2 heatwave). In Paris everybody is in water…by the Eiffel, in die seine, in the fountains. We are drinking water by the tons, the ice cream shelves shelves are empty. We are thirsty and hot and sticky. We are like limp fish. But it isn’t the worst heat I’ve known, so I don’t complain..pretty soon it will be dark European winter days and I will miss this heat.

In the meantime, there are many ways to keep cool. One of them of course is eating cool meals…like sipping cold gazpacho!

Une petite pensée:

  • I don’t add bread to the gazpacho, but I love to serve it with croutons sprinkled on top. Omit the croutons and mix some country bread together with the vegetable mix.
  • Serve with vegetables cut into small dice(cucumber, peppers, spring onions)
  • Serve with a cocktail stick of goats cheese, cherry tomato, basil leaf.
  • Serve topped with a spoonful of scraped iced tomato juice.
  • Use a celery branch to stir.
  • Add cubes of ice in each glass
  • Serve in rustic Spanish glasses for the best effect.

A visit to Brive la Gaillarde..Les rues, des petits chemins, un bistro, la collegiale St. MArtin, lesboputis(quilts), l’architecturte et les fontaines..voilà Brive la Gaillarde a Corréze.

From an overheated Vallée de la Dordogne…à bientôt!

Ronelle


Frittata à la “Mon Chéri”..and a late summer “potager” (veggie garden).

Sunday was a real “Dimanche à la campagne” at Coin Perdu. Our children from Toulouse  visited the weekend, the sun was shining, we stopped working on our house for the day and we had a great brunch outside under the Tilleul tree. What made it really perfect was that Mon Chéri made lunch! I just sat in the shade, sipped my Rosè and enjoyed the company of the people I love. This frittata/tortilla/ omelette is the brainchild of Mon Chéri and it changes every time he makes it which course is typical of a frittata…you use whatever is available and to your liking!

..frittata/tortilla/omelette on the barbecue..

..the assistant earns her lunch..

..la recette..

Une petite pensée:

  • Make a frittata to empty the fridge at the end of a month.
  • Normally a frittata is done on the stove and placed under a grill for a few minutes before serving. I is firm enough to cut into slices.
  • If you want it creamier, add a TBSP of crème fraîche just after you’ve added the eggs and stir .
  • Always add a sprinkling of freshly cut herbs before serving for a fresh appeal.
  • Place your frittata under the grill for a few minutes to have it puff up, melt the cheese if added and brown nicely.
  • To make it vegetarian, omit the left over meat.
  • Be creative with your frittata.
  • Serve with fresh green salad, toast or country bread and fruit.

..dèjeuner à la campagne..

Our potager here at Coin Perdu is a bit empty at the moment. (You can see a little of the evolution of the potager the last 2 years on my Coin Perdu-blog: Moving forward and A garden in the making.)

But back to the moment: ..the strawberries try desperately to produce one last crop… I sure did something wrong, because my garlic went to seed and is even smaller than when I planted them!… I lost all my newly planted carrots by simple neglect unfortunately (I didn’t water them…too lazy?)…my basil dried up too, but I still have some new leaves pushing, so I’m not completely hopeless!…My onions are all dug up…my young leeks look a bit frail…

..an empty late summer potager..

But on the other hand…my maize (corn) looks beautiful, although few…my pumpkin is coming along beautifully and already have little pumpkins all over…I am in love with all my grey foliaged herbs like the Absinthe(Artemisia absinthium), the santolinas, the grey potent curry plants..

..absinthe, french marigolds, tomatoes, maize, pumpkin herbs..

My artichokes are late, but I’m happy, even though I have only one plant carrying buds…next year I will have plenty of artichokes..enough to leave for flowering and enough for eating!…

..artichokes..

One thing I don’t fail at, is growing beets…deliciously sweet, small and big, the young leaves delicious in salads. We have feasted this season on fresh beets and I’ve just planted some more and I’m already picking the leaves for colour in my salads – of course beets are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, but I pretend they are very difficult and I’m just soo good!…

..young beetroot peeping through the lavender..

A lovely green view on my potager..I have to add that this photo was taken just after some hard work, like weeding and digging-in horse manure(with the help of sweet Mon chéri of course) and pruning and all the labour a potager asks for…but still… quite pretty with the bright tansy and gay French marigolfds, the cloches and yellow pots, tomato forest… heh?…

..bright yellows for a potager..

Now just look at my maize (admitting again in a whisper that Mon Chéri sees to it being watered…?). In France maize is not eaten “corn on the cob” wise. On the contrary, it is seen as animal food and frowned upon as human food..but once they try it our way..on the BBQ.. with butter and fleur de sel..they are converted!…

..maize(corn on the cob)..

Of course I have camomile, as everubody does…how can one not have Camomile…such an easy growing, abundant and gratifying herb! Don’t trust the marker…nothing is what it seems here at Coin Perdu…

rosemary…oops non, camomile..

Aha…the tomatoes – last year I was conscientious and my tomatoes were properly staked and all the necessary pinching and mulching were religiously done and they were beautiful! This year, it is more of a tomato war with cherries and grapes and rondes and ovals fighting for air and power and it is an ordeal to harvest, but when we succeed, we have nice sweet abundant crops; I’ll be perfect again next year!…

..tomatoes..

As said…I love the santolinas…the greens and the greys…mixed with lavender, I can dwell there for hours. Hopefully I’ll have a whole field of mixed santolinas and lavenders next year – it all comes down to efficient planning?…

..beautiful santolina..

The visitors are bountiful and it rewards the hard work of gardening without pesticides! This young lady goes by the pretty name of le Nacré de la ronce(Brenthis daphné)…

..Nacre de la ronce..

Without planning it, my potager developed and grew towards the yellows. And I love it! Yellows, oranges, greens, whites and grey. Beautiful. But only in my garden. and only in the potager. The rest stays all white. And definitely not on my body! Look at these cheeky marigolds, bursting with energy!… and they get picked when they start to wilt, the petals are dried and used in salads..Nothing goes to waste .

..French marigolds..

Salads. A potager isn’t a potager without its salads. A leaf here and a leaf there, a handful f tomatoes, a basil leaf, a beetroot leaf … voilà, a salad for lunch….

salads (feuille de chène)

I’m one of those crazy gardeners… I am greedy, I plant too much, I plant too close together, I sow too many seeds… And so I planted far too many courgettes for our household and we ended up having these giants…pretty to look at,  not as tasty as the young sweet courgettes though. But I always reason that life must be pretty too, not only practical and sensible, and that same reasoning goes for a potager…pretty has its place too in a potager. So here they are, my pretty giants!…

..pretty giants..

I hope you enjoyed walking with me through my potager at the end of the summer…almost.

A potager is hard work…all that weeding, the watering, the planting and seeding, the harsh summer sun, fighting the slugs and the deer, the rabbits and snails……it IS  hard work and I am fa..aar from being the most effective gardener. Around us, everything grows and wanders like it wishes(animals included, people included) and when the worms devour my artichokes, I break into an instant fit and man and animal flees, but then calm down and casually start over again. We pretty much believe in laisser faire, so you will never see perfection around here, but I believe that it is a stress free way of gardening. What is a few weeds after all? And insects do more good than harm, and if the snails feed on your salads, just plant a few more.. or plant some sorrel to keep them away from your salad(snails adore sorrel)..or cover the soil with broken eggshells, or ash from the barbecue…live and let live..

OK. I have to shower and clean my nails and go find my gloves, which stayed behind somewhere in the potager…

Happy gardening!

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


Weekly photo challenge – summer.

Summer is…

…kayaking down the Dordogne..


Tropical fruit salad… and Hawai’i chronicles 1 – the hula.

When I was in Hawa’i I searched everywhere for a nice tropical dessert with local fruits, but all in vain. Probably because of a lack of fruits in season? Back here at home, I still want a fruit salad, so I made this salad Not completely a tropical one, but with some well known fruits. Next time I’ll make a real tropical salad with lesser know fruits and give my verdict.

  1. Cut some tropical fruits of your choice into brunoise(small cubes). I used mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, kumquat, pomegranate, green Granny smith apple.
  2. Use fruits that  are ripe, but still firm, so that you don’t end up with a soggy fruit salad…awful!
  3. Cover the apple with lemon juice to prevent coloring.
  4. Don’t use banana, it is too strong and overpowering for a fruit salad.
  5. Use a tiny melon ball scoop for the papaya to add some difference in shapes. I also cut the pineapple in little triangles.
  6. Keep the fruits separate and mix lightly just before serving, OR set in layers in a pretty glass.
  7. Make a syrup of 4 passion fruit pulp, 1 TSP of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Let it boil down to a syrupy consistency and pour over the salad just before serving.
  8. Serve with a small scoop of lemon sorbet. (recipe following in a next issue)
  9. Decorate with some fresh flowers or a little umbrella for fun, lime strips, or add mint leaves or small basil leaves.
  10. Serve cold, but NOT so cold that you can’t taste the fruit!

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Hawai’i is always a good place to unwind, even if you just do nothing, which is exactly what I did this time around. Reading by the pool, watching people(one of my favorite pastimes) while  imagining their stories. On one such a day, this lovely Hawaiian woman gave some Hula lessons and of course I don’t have the same pretty hips for swaying along, but I could at least capture some nice hips!

The Hula is not just pretty hip swaying, but tells a story. With the hands and arms and face, a tale is mimicked with sensuality and sensitivity.  One does get involved and captured  and can’t help but wish more stories were told this romantic way.

I was too far away to hear this story, but I imagine it could be something like this:

“The goddess Pele, who owns the sea and oceans and the mountains, saw that Hiania who lost a child, was absorbed by sadness. Hiania hid from the world and her tears filled the rivers. Pele cares passionately for her children of the islands and she heaved the winds and stirred the waves with a message to Haina.

“Cry no more“, she said.

Look up to the sun and see your child in the skies. He is smiling upon you and asking you to set free your sadness and prepare your womb to receive the child the winds will bring you.

Hiania looked up and saw the smile of her son. She gave her sadness to the mountain who took it deep into the earth to feed its fire and she was set free to wait with anticipation upon her keiki (little one).

Until next time and with swaying hips(in private!),

 Mahalo !

Ronelle


White bean salad with anchovies and Muscat grapes…and remembering a garden by the Loire.

Very few people enjoy white beans. I’m actually not one of those few. But a salad…that’s something I always enjoy, and with bean salad, it is no different. Not a cold salad though. Slightly warm.  And not a mushy one either. Fresh and crispy. That’s how I like all my salads. Try it, you might like it too.

Suggestions:

There can be so much playing around with this recipe:

  • Use a mixture of white and red beans.
  • Do yourself a favor and use either the fresh pods or dry beans from the organic store, but not the canned beans…there is just no comparison between beans freshly cooked…just, just tender with still some bite…and those overcooked, bleak, mushy, floury canned stuff.
  • Keep the colors and flavors in your recipe simple.
  • Add other grapes of your preference, or try figs, which are also in season now.
  • Use chervil along with the parsley, which will compliment the anchovies.
  • The anchovies can be left out or replaced by another fish like sardines.
  • Use red onion for its sweetness.
  • Add some freshly grated ginger for extra piquancy and flavor, in which case one would leave out the chervil.
  • This little salad can be used as an aperitif, which is very “tendance” at the moment – serve a helping on pretty spoons with a cold wine, or serve on a small toast triangle, or in a verrine(small glass), or serve in a bowl with slices of baguette so each person can serve him/herself.
  • Add the grapes cold and just before serving, so as to have nice crisp and cool contrast with room temperature.

Here at the end of summer, I am remembering a garden by the Loire. One I haven’t seen in almost 6 months. A garden I miss for its beauty. Its tranquility. Its animal life. For the many memories it gave birth to.

I remember the hard work, shaping something from nothing. I remember the many mistakes made. But  mostly I remember the small but significant successes. The bounty in flower and foliage, the madness of rambunctious herbs, the unforgiving heat of summer sun, the many surprises and no less , the stubborn, but amusing persistence of the weeds. This all shaped my garden, gave it a rich and full life… gave me a rich and full life… season after season.

I remember being too ambitious. Having too little space and planting far too much. I My little garden turned into a forest by the end of summer…the roquette sweeping through the pebbles, the fennels reaching for the skies, the lavenders dancing wild sambas in the beds, the Pierre de Ronsard  climbing rose playing out a Sleeping Beauty fairytale. The boxwoods’ constant demand for pruning, the long shoots everywhere, the new shoots everywhere, the dead heads waiting paitiently…

I remember how the garden could change as often as I can change my mind. Each seasons’ corners were plentiful and changed from one year to the next. Or even more. There was a corner for reflection, for morning coffee,  one for sipping a coolness in midday. There was  room to bask in the sun and of course a spot chosen somewhere for the meal of the evening. And how romantic were these summer evenings in this garden by the Loire, accompanied by the heady fragrances of  jasmines and roses, lavenders and lilies! These lazy dinners lasted long into the night, lit up by candles and lanterns, handmade especially for me by a lover.

I remember how different this love affair with my little garden was to what I have now here at Coin Perdu, where our eyes follow the fall of the sun every evening to far beyond the horizon. It flames up the skies and we are woken up much later by the brightness of a moon and a starlit sky. In the garden by the Loire,  sunsets were rare, cut off early evenings by the shadows of the cliffs and the welcome coolness of the caves. The small garden enfolded our evenings in a soft dusk pashmina,  a warm embrace of  familiarity and comfort. We lit up our candles and made fires in the summer kitchen. With herbs from the garden we stuffed meats and marinated vegetables. Our summer days began and ended in this little garden.

We lived and worked close together in this tiny “jardin de curé”...the cats, the chickens, the people…we all crowded in the summer cave, or in the working “cave” or in my “ atelier“…purring on cushions, lounging on daybeds, playing guitar, listening to music, reading, talking deep talks, speaking deep thoughts, painting, eating, sleeping…

It was nice.

No. It was magical.

It was mine.

This tiny garden by the Loire.


Desserts and moments from Provence.

I’ve been back from Provence for some time,  but very busy at my gallery(which I’ll talk about in a next post).

I’ve suddenly come down with a terrible gastro and I’ve been like a limp fish the last two days. but I need to get up an just move a little, so I thought it good to recall some moments from my painting trip.

I can’t face food at the  moment, but I can show you the lovely desserts we had at Le vieux Four, in Crillon le Brave.

…apricot soup…

…French cheesecake with red berry coulis…

…red fruit sorbets…

More photos can be seen here in my gallery, Beauty of la France and  Paintings can be found  on Africantapestry…posts More paintings from Provence, Paintings from Provence and Two oil paintings and a gouache.

Our home away from home…the lovely home of artist, Julian Merrow Smith from Postcard from Provence.

…the view on Mont Ventoux  from my room

...early mornings in pj’s around painting, coffee and croissants…

…my afternoon painting in progress…

Sarah’s early morning oil painting in progress…

Robyn’s watercolor in progress…

Katherine’s pencils…

..a gathering of Provenceaux in Bédoin…

…when the market is quiet…

…Pizza anyone?…

…The closest I got to lavender…

…au revoir et à bientôt!…



Stuffed courgette flowers..and painting in Provence.

My courgette is taking over my potager here at Coin Perdu…beautiful and healthy with enormous bright green leaves and underneath those cheeky yellow flowers peeking through. The male flowers are starting to fall of and I’m picking them up and drying them to use as dried flowers for sprinkling over my salads…my latest craze; if you keep still long enough, I sprinkle you with dried flowers

The female courgettes are the only ones carrying fruit and I’ve picked some of both to stuff with a crab filling. Both male and female flowers are edible. If ever you can get hold of some courgette flowers…they are absolutely divine, from another world and savored slowly and deliberately…well, I’m a lady, I can’t say what I really think, but you’ll know what I mean when once you’ve enjoyed one!


Suggestions:

  • Serve the flowers stuffed, without steaming.
  • OR make a batter of some flour and add some fizzy water, mix until a thick cream . Dip the courgette flowers wth filling into the batter until coated and deep fry quickly, one by one, turning each once once. Remove, drain and serve sprinkled with fleur de sel and a few drops of lemon juice, or a light yoghurt/mint sauce (natural yoghurt, chopped mint, seasoning, lemon juice..)Make your own filling by choosing ingredients you like and by mixing flavor which compliment each other. Keep it light.
  • Serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves with a vinaigrette.

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Myfenchkitchen is off to Provence for a week of painting with 3 artist buddies. We’ll be staying in the Vaucluse home of well known painter of Postcards from Provence, Julian Merrow Smith and his wife Ruth Philips, while they will be in England where Ruth will be playing cello at the Garsington festival. We even have our own blog, Four go painting in Provence and you’re invited to follow us every step of the way on this trip if you’re interested in seeing all our adventures…which of course will be mostly painting…and eating…and painting again…and then visiting the markets and painting them …and eating…and having some wine perhaps and eating again… or is it painting…in any case, a lot of everything! you can read a little more on my art blog too: Africantapestry is off to Provence for a crazy painting experience!

I’m leaving on Sunday for a week..the other three artist buddies, Katherine, Sarah and Robyn will be there for 3 weeks. unfortunately I have some exciting obligations to tend to here at Coin Perdu, which I’ll share with you once I’m back! So don’t go away…keep well and in the meantime…keep those pots sizzling!

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Lemon verbena ice cream..and those ugly clothes hangers.

I love Lemon verbena…it dries beautifully, it makes a refreshing infusion, it adds zest to a cabinet, a room…and makes an elegant  ice cream. And whichever season you’re in, an ice cream is always a good ending to a meal.

Suggestions:

  • Use lavender flowers or other dried herbs that you like instead of the lemon verbena.
  • If you want a lighter ice cream, use only milk instead of the cream. \For an even creamier version, substitute 1 cup of cream for one cup of crème fraiche.
  • If you’re afraid of curdling the cream when heating, heat up only the milk and add the cream later.

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One thing I am finicky about in my home, is clothes hangers.  I normally use wooden hangers, which are quite expensive for all our clothes.  And I don’t really like thickly covered hangers. And I don’t like plastic hangers. And here at Coin Perdu, while we are still living in the barn, wooden hangers feel too extravagant. Since Hartman’s shirts are being ironed professionally, I have loads of wire clothes hangers, which I return, but there are always a few lying around. and while we were around the barbeque fire one evening, an idea was born to cover these wire hangers with some strips of torn fabric.  I’m highly excited about my clothes hangers and have decided that they will just move into my clothes closet once our house is finished! not to mention my excitement about recycling, saving on money and being a wise consumer!

I used:

  • Wire coat hangers.
  • Old pieces of cotton fabric, cut/torn into strips of  roughly 4 cm wide and about 150 cm long, although the length is not such an issue, since one can just start off with a new strip if you run out of fabric on a hanger. I used off cuts of toile de jouy fabric in shades of beiges and whites. I used cotton which is easy to use and to manipulate around the hanger. the thicker your fabric the more difficult it becomes. If you want a thicker covering, make your strips a bit wider, or wind closer together.
  • I also tore my pieces of fabric so the edges are quite rough, giving nice texture to the hangers. I like the frayed edges and pieces of thread escaping wildly here and there. (See photo above)

Start at the top of the hook of the hanger and let a longish piece of your strip hang down to the middle(where you will tie the two strips together at the end.)

  • With your long strip, start winding down the hook to the middle, making sure you capture well around the sharp point of the handle.
  • If you run out of fabric halfway through a hanger, simply finish off tightly and start with a new strip of the same fabric, working forward and then a bit backward(like backstitching) and then continue. Both the end of the old strip and start of the new strip are now “buried” under the new strip.
  • Make sure to make your windings tight. (See image above)
  • When you have gone right around the hanger, you will end back at the middle, where your short piece of fabric strip is hanging.
  • Tie the two strips together into a tight knot and let the strips hang down like a ribbon/bow.
  • You can finish off the two strips by simply leaving them tied in a knot (like I did), OR work some ribbons or buttons or and other decoration of your choice.

…et voilà..a facelift for some ugly ole wire hangers!…


Countrybread with panfried strawberries and basil…and apron fun!

Can we ever get enough of strawberries? Of course not! Right off the vine, directly out of the basket, sliced with cream, sorbet, panacotta, tarts, salads…every which way. And as a lunch with fresh country bread, goats cheese  and basil? Simply delicious.

Suggestions:

  • The strawberries can be used fresh instead of sautéed, o cut and marinated in some white balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Add a bit of olive oil to the marinade and use as a vinaigrette.
  • Use some soft cottage cheese instead of the goats cheese with freshly chopped chives and basil the and salt and pepper mixed into the cottage cheese.
  • Omit the cheese completely and make a sandwich of fresh strawberries, basil, chopped chives and add a drizzle of maple syrup.
  • Another version could be to top the bread with strawberries and lastly add some goats cheese, put under the gril for two to three minutes and add the basil and a drizzle of honey just before serving.
  • Use other sliced fruit in season instead of the strawberries.

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We stopped our restoration here at Coin Perdu for a day of fun. With aprons. And three delightful, playful models. They chopped and chirped, giggled and grated, peeled and pestered,  mocked and mixed, all the while performing with an apron chosen from the heap. So.. can an apron be fun? Judge for yourself…

 

I grew up seeing my mother in her apron every day. While she was doing her morning’s work; the washing, ironing, cleaning, kitchen work, she faithfully wore her apron. And after lunch, it would be removed until dinner time, when preparing dinner and cleaning up would demand an apron again.

Unlike those days, when aprons at home were more of a necessity to protect the small wardrobe of clothes, we have a multitude of aprons today for adding to that special ambiance of an occasion or activity. It partially serves to also  show our domain of expertise as well as our our fun loving side. But some habits haven’t changes over the years…the butcher still wears his butcher’s apron/outfit, the boulanger(baker) is still clearly recognized by his apron, the fishmonger wears his proudly, the blacksmith is never without his leather aprons, the “garcon” serving your “panache” at the bar wears his with French  flair… an apron is there for our barbecues and for our kitchens , our gardens,  for playgrounds, yes, it is fun equally for men, women and children.

So, do you have a fun loving side…?


à bientôt

Ronelle



Ginger broccoli salad…and edible flowers.

A salad is something that can be eaten at any time…mealtimes or snack times and even those times you feel like eating out of boredom. Go for a salad. It is safe. It is my ultimate favorite dish, summer through winter.

In our home we are always stocked to the brim with ingredients for a salad. Vegetables, greens, leaves, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, cheeses, flowers and herbs, essential oils, but even more so… an interesting vinaigrette and little “addition” to prevent a salad from becoming boring.

This time… a salad with broccoli and preserved ginger, a pungent ginger vinaigrette and a scattering of dried edible flowers for some interest.

Suggestions:

  • Use a mix of broccoli and cauliflowers florets.
  • Use broccolini instead of broccoli.
  • Omit the ginger and use a firm fruit in season. Use some juice or pulp of the same fruit in the vinaigrette.
  • Try different herbal/flower teas or infusions as a base for a vinaigrette.
  • Use fresh flowers instead of dry dried ones.
  • Add some fried bacon pieces or thin strips of pancetta for a salty addition.
  • Serve the broccoli still warm for a salad with more substance and sprinkle the dried flowers just before serving.
  • Marinate the broccoli in the vinaigrette for 15-30 minutes before serving at room temperature.

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…and edible flowers:

Nothing can be easier than making your own dried flowers to use in vinaigrette, salads, and sauces and any other food decoration, with only one rule to keep in mind: make sure the flowers are edible! sometimes the leaves can be used, but not the flowers or vice versa. Make sure you’re not allergic to some flower or pollen. Don’t use flowers from florists which may  be sprayed with pesticides. Your own garden or nature is the place to gather your flowers. Whether you’re in summer or winter, you can always find some flowers around you to use in your foods and of course, so much the better, because you DO eat seasonal don’t you?

We all use herbs in our salads, dried and fresh and they are familiar to us. A few lesser known flowers for a vinaigrette are marigolds, lawn daisies, dandelions, pansies, clover, hibiscus, cornflower, mallow, zinnia, tulips, phlox, day lilies, begonia, gardenia, lilacs, magnolias, fuchsias…

and of course, the well known violets, nasturtiums, borage, lavender, sages, sunflowers,roses, camomile, marguerites, geraniums, honeysuckle, poppies, courgette…

I’m showing a few that I’m drying now which are in season:

I pick my flowers when I dead head them…snip off the drying ones. Pick them during midday, wash them, let dry.  I then use a scissors to cut the flowers off right behind the petals, as to keep only the softer tips of the petals. I mostly use only the petals of the flowers to dry, except for the small lawn daisy which looks very cute scattered on a salad or sorbet. To keep its daisy shape, I let them dry face down with a little pressure to keep them open . The harder and tougher stems aren’t always enjoyable in a salad or sauce, so make sure all hard stems are removed.  Spread the petals on a large tray, covered with a absorbing paper or kitchen towel. Leave in a dark, cool and dry place. The petals dry very quickly and can then be stored separately in small glass containers to use on different occasions and with different dishes. Store in cool dark spot.

…lawn daisy (paquerette)

…pansies(pensees)

…dandelions(pissenlit)…

…marigold(souci)…

…clover(trefle)…

When you’re not in the mood for drying your own flowers, you can run off to the organic store or any herbalist where you will find interesting tea infusions and herbal infusions which you can buy.

…hibiscus…

…mallow(mauve)…

…cornflower(bleuet)

à la prochaine!

Ronelle


Radishes with butter and fleur de sel..and a magazine feature.

I am writing from Coin Perdu in Puy d’Arnac, Correze, where we’ve opened up the house and restarted the restoration process.

I have started work in the vegetable garden, where the process is much slower than I would like, but like with art, it should be about the process and not only about the end result. so I’m slacking down and enjoying the stiff muscles and backaches and bruises and blisters…or am I? Be it as it may; life here in the green valleys of Correze doesn’t care for haste and speed(except on the roads).  Days are long and start and end in their own time. People stop in the roads to talk to the neighbour. Chickens and ducks waddle lazily by the roadsides and the cattle just graze without thought in the hills. how can I  push on with my vegetable garden when the rest of the world around me is taking time to enjoy the present moment. So I suggest a break from our hectic programs…stop by the market, buy a bunch of radishes, call some friends for a sundowner and catch up on that friendship while you munch on fresh radishes with real butter and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. It is what we do often. It is what all French do. Often.

Suggestions:

  • Use any herbs of your choice, but stick to a maximum of three. I used parsley, chives and lemon peel, with a drop of lemon juice.
  • Serve mayonnaise for those who don’t eat butter.
  • Instead of Fleur de sel, use Maldon salt flakes.
  • Don’t throw the leaves of the radishes away, use to make a soup, like you would use spinach.
  • Serve with a cold rose or cold dry white wine as an aperitif.

…and a magazine feature.

I’ve had the big honor of being featured in the spring issue of the elegant magazine Where women cook, by the very creative team of Jo Packham.  See the magazine cover on my sidebar.

In continuation of this article, everybody who is featured in this issue  is also featured on the Where women cook – blog, Amuse bouche. I can promise you will enjoy Amuse bouche…it is full of inspiration with ideas and good reads about interesting people with exciting adventures and projects and stunning photography!

I will be featured  on Amuse Bouchefrom Monday 18 April to Thursday 21 April with:

Please drop by and say hi…I hope you enjoy!

And last but not least: A BIG thank you to Jo Packham from the magazine Where women cook, for this invitation and to Loralee Choate who does such a fantastic job on Amuse Buche!

à bientôt

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

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