Monday, October 31, 2011

Ooh La La France

Shirley: “Grab it, Tessie! Use both hands, Annie!  Michelle-- squat low or you’ll loose it! Joan, there’s one in the rose bush!”
Joan: “And that one is going to stay there.”
Tessie: “Shirley, we love you. But we can’t have book club here if we always have to spend an hour chasing your cats into the kitchen!”
Annie: “Speaking of herding cats, let’s try to get all the girls to go on a big trip this year."
Michelle: “To France!”
Shirley: “Ooh la la!”
Tessie: “I didn’t know you knew French, Shirley.”
Shirley: “ ‘Ooh la la’ is all the French we need to know!”
Michelle: “Ah, yes, the famous Ooh La La France Tours! They were almost on Oprah! But I can’t bear to have a grand adventure in France without Bob, and I think that the Ooh La La France Tour is just for women.”
Shirley: “Get hip, girl. Ooh La La is changing with the times-- now men can come, too!”
Annie, Tessie, Michelle, Joan: “Hooray!”
Joan: “Does the man I bring have to be my husband?”
Shirley, Tessie, Michelle, Annie: “Ooh La La!”
Quick, Annie-- there’s one in the rose bush.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Harvested Fields

Pricing available at

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


"Bob said he was looking for something 18th century so we could really experience the French heritage. We had some miscommunication on the whole BC/AD thing."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Varieties

Forgive me if I’ve told this story before, but it is one of my favorite experiences in France so it gets told a lot......
While waiting for Tom to finish up his en plein aire painting at a market I ran across great big, tall, orange pumpkins. I bought three. Two young friends came over the next afternoon and Tom carved one pumpkin to give them some idea of what could be done with this blank orange canvas. Then we gave the children markers and let them have a go at making a spooky face and then we helped them with the carving. When the top was cut off it took a bit of coaxing to get them to put their hands into the slimy interior to pull out the “guts”. I took over cleaning off the seeds and popping them, salted, into the oven. The kids loved the crunchy snack, their parents thought we were nuts. But not half as nuts as the little old ladies that passed by our windows a few days later. “Oh what funny things you have done to your pumpkins” “What are you going to do with them now?” “Oh, light them up for Halloween and then what?” Now, I’m thinking what can one do with a sooty, moldy, month old pumpkin except throw it on the compost pile. So I say, “we’ll compost it.” “What? You’re not going to eat it?” and right away I could see that I was the American. An American that never thought about the fact that a pumpkin could be, should be eaten. An American that thought Halloween would be loved every where. But here in France Halloween is seen as an American intrusion with all sorts of commercial strings attached and so it is an event that is frowned upon. I think this prejudice is furthered by the fact that until recently the pumpkins in France were all squat and red, no place to carve pointy teeth, moon shaped eyes or a black cat freckle. 

Since then a dear friend gave me a cook book seemingly written for French market cooking “Off the Shelf” by Donna Hay - an Aussie food writer. Now I love to cook squat, red pumpkins that are only good for one thing, eating. Save those gorgeous, tall, curvaceous orange pumpkins for a different sort of creativity.
Pasta with Pumpkin and Sage Brown Butter
2 lb. pumpkin, peeled and diced
olive oil
14 oz fettuccine
2 1/2 oz butter
3 tablespoons whole sage leaves
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
cracked black pepper and sea salt
Preheat oven to 375F. Place the pumpkin in a baking dish and sprinkle with a little olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and soft.
Just before the pumpkin is ready, cook the pasta in a large saucepan of lightly salted boiling water until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, place the butter and sage in a saucepan over low to medium heat and allow the butter to simmer until a golden brown color.
To serve, place the pasta in serving plates and top with the pumpkin and parmesan. Spoon over the brown butter and sage leaves and season with pepper and salt. Serves 4.
After a ten year hiatus, we are going to carve some jack-o-lanterns this year.  Our American eccentricities, once viewed as mildly threatening, are now seen as divertingly amusing.
Happy All Soul’s Day!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Hidden Fountain

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Things One Misses

"Bob really misses the Macy's Parade."

Monday, October 17, 2011


Autumn has been slow to arrive here in the Dordogne. It's well into October and we are still enjoying sunny days and temperatures in the 80’s. As summer seemed to go on forever, so too did the literally hundreds of local festivals in our area. And even now some festivals still diesel along with these fine warm days. 

The early morning autumn air is crisp. But there is something missing in the mid-day air.  Gone are the bubbling sounds of foreign accents-- Dutch, German, American, and crisp Parisian accents (Parisians are considered foreigners down here.). The last festival -- for pumpkins-- is still ahead of us. But there are no more the town wide yard sales with hundreds of sellers and miles of walking, gawking and occasional shopping. Gone are the elbow pushing mornings at the weekly markets.  No more can we slip ourselves into someone else's vacation video.

With this seasonal quiet time we are all more playful, more laid back, and are able to linger and visit. The now-occasional weekend events have become more quaint. They are put on more for the locals than the tourists. One event is to raise money for an old dog's retirement home. Another proudly touts the advantages of ecologically-minded farming. A third is a festival of recycling and re-using household trash (Tom calls this the "Fete de Garbarge")

It's fun to see children engaged in the activities and hear the sing-song country French of our neighbors. 

The hustle bustle of summer was grand but how wonderful to just be with ourselves for a while.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Town Band, Riberac

Thursday, October 13, 2011

No French No Problem

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Believe it or not.....

Amazing but true there are people that live in our region that do not speak any French. Well they can mumble hello, good bye and please, but not even a thank you.
Here are some alternative forms of communication that I have seen, and at times had to resort to myself, mostly gestures and drawings with a smattering of english spoken with a French accent. Not one thing to do with a real french word or phrase.
“Where is the rest room?”
The kindergarten hop from one foot to the other while holding ones crotch.
“Do you have a philips head screw driver?”
Standing in the hardware store with a sample screw in one hand and the other hand moving around above the screw, like a magician trying to conjour up the right tool.
“Will I need flood insurance?”
A scribble of a house with a river flowing through it. Or was that a boat out on the ocean?
“I would like that cake in the window.”
Zat one, no zat one, no zat one further over, no no no YES!
“Two please.”
Dear reader: try this-- hold up your fingers to show that you want two of something. Now change that to your thumb and second finger, because this is how the French do their fingers for “two”.
Now you see why non French speakers end up with three of everything.
“I would like a cantaloupe, a zucchini, two peppers, a pound of green beans and enough pork roast for three people.”
Point, point, fingers up point, run down the line of people standing at the market stall, point, motion handfuls, and then motion mouthfuls.
Tom’s favorite:  In failing to be understood by one Frenchman, The non-French speaker will try to get another Frenchman to understand and to act as a non-French-to-French translator.  This invariably ends up with a small crowd forming, everyone having a different understanding of what is trying to be said.  Soon everyone is just talking about the weather.
Why would one speak the local language when not doing so gives one the chance to awaken the communicative creative side in all of us?