Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'Twas New Year's Eve Day and....

It all began when............ Joe went to the boulangerie (bakery) for his morning pain au chocolat. It took him forever! However, when he returned his hands were filled with mimosa and red tulips from the stand set up in the street for New Year's. The trees should be covered soon in these vibrant yellow blossoms (some are pure white). They are perfect for our apertif table.

Being Wednesday, we had to go to the market in Uzès, about 10 minutes away. Walking
past our favorite pâtisserie, we found the line out the door. One gentleman walked out with seven vibrant pink boxes of party treats. Entering, we found every available space filled with plates of pastries. Have you picked the one you want to taste? Or maybe all of them?????

Oysters are also a New Year's treat. Here in a small passageway one was able to buy oysters for later---or take right now to a café for a treat.

The last two days have been very gray and the market was very small. I think all were staying home to rest for the parties this evening. Rain did not stop us from having coffee in one of the outdoor cafés and wishing all Bonne Fête!

We do hope you have a wonderful New Year. We will be going with our neighbors to the next village for dinner after having champagne here. Amy said we should be home about 3----AM that is!

Friday, December 12, 2008

'Tis the Season to....

It's almost here and I can't wait! No presents are wrapped as Homeland Security would have all the fun of unwrapping them. After spending Christmas with my mother, we shall jump on the plane Christmas day and arrive in France just in time to create a second holiday with Molly and Billy, Amy and Matt (oh, and, three dogs, three cats, and, of course, Amy's nieces, Ari and Emmie, who will be watching the sky for Santa).

Isn't Santa wonderful spanning a passageway in the neighboring village of Uzes? Many of the stores in the village will have on their holiday finery. Lights line the streets and everyone is ready for the big night.

Late on Christmas Eve, Joe and I along with our friends, Kathy and Pete, will don our elf's hats and go to NORAD (the Air Force facility here in Colorado Springs) to answer calls from little ones from around the world. Children are eager to know exactly where Santa is and we will be giving them up to the minute information of his precise location from a large screen in front of the room which follows his journey. Almost 100,000 calls will come in during the 24 hours that Santa travels the Earth. We will spend two hours constantly answering some of those calls. If you have some curious ones in your house, go online and see where Santa is. It does get pretty exciting!
Have a wonderful holiday. We shall write next from France with all the excitement of a French holiday.

Joyeux Noël,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who ever guessed?

We have news! Our lovely little Lili is now Louis lV! We got this message from the wonderful people who have had Lili, whoops, Louis lV in their care for the last two weeks:

"Lille, la chat, turns out to be Louis iv(after your street #).He was becoming cautiously social with us by the time we left La Tonnellerie.However, we are all very concerned about him being left in your house.He loves to climb your curtains & he has made some ‘pulls’ in your Pashminas,which were draped over the back of your Chair in the salon.I have tucked them away under the sofa cushions.Upon our arrival, we found a broken jam jar on the kitchen floor & he had torn up an entire roll of paper towel under the sink! So, you see, he is as curious as a kitten on his cavorting journey to adulthood!!! We were totally entertained each evening at about 7pm.He romped & rolled & has learned to climb your newell stair post.He all but swung from the ropes on the stair."

Can you imagine such a sweet face could cause so many laughs?

Oh, the Allens and their friends were wonderful to take care of her, whoops, him. He may be on a new adventure to a friends to become a vineyard kitten. I wonder if he likes wine? Who knows what will be next if his lifetime. Maybe, he will rejoin us the next time we visit.

A Bientot,

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Do you feel the crispness?

We have returned to Colorado and would you believe that all the dust I ran away from in August was still in the house? The biggest problem with our return was the lack of pastry with our lonely morning coffee. Waking up to Pikes Peak is always a pleasant sight upon our return and this morning it had no snow. However, within two days, the peak was white. Alas, it did melt, but with more snow expected to arrive this evening.

France was beginning to show signs of autumn with a crispness to the air. Here, we have basked in the sunshine and warmth of autumn. Our Virginia Creeper, climbing up our fireplace, is a vibrant red. The deer have enjoyed our summer tomatoes and the fox has visited us every evening hoping to find a leftover morsel of food. Robins are gathering for their journey south and the golden marigolds are giving us seeds for the spring garden.

Pikes Peak is always a friend who welcomes us home.

After meeting wonderful new people, eating more of the delicious foods, and picking the 2008 wine, we can't wait to return and sit in our courtyard with a glass of that wine.

As I did not have time the last week to write about more of our pastry tastings, I shall have to continue the blog a while longer. The last tasting had us return to each of our favorites, a very difficult choice. I hope you will enjoy hearing more about our adventures and misadventures in France.

A bientot,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hooray! We finished!

This is what we have been picking. The Syrah is a grape that likes to tangle itself around the wires and other branches taking lots of time to pick. But yesterday, we finished. Placing that last case on the tractor, there was a sign of relief.

The grapes were delicious and the wild boars have been enjoying them for dinner. One vigneron told me to always taste the grapes remaining on a cluster that the boars have eaten. They will be the sweetest of all the grapes. The mildew also took its toll by leaving just dried grape branches. Another vigneron told me when the weeds thrive and are green at this time of year, the fruits will not be many. The weeds and grass were very green and the fruit is not plentiful---too much moisture. Ah, but this moisture is good for next year.

The colors in the vineyards are beginning to shout. Each type of grape leaf changes differently. Soon the countryside will all be in shades of red.

To add adventure to the day, Amy threw a stick for Daisy to run after. Daisy does love that, however, Amy also threw her car keys, house, gate, tractor, and shed keys along with that stick. The landing place? A wonderful Brer Rabbit briar patch. We haven't found them yet.

What did both Joe and I say this afternoon? We missed going to the vineyard. The days outside were crisp. The people, who helped us pick all volunteers, were a delight. The lunches in the vineyard were filled with jabbering and laughter. What fun it has been-----and all for the 2008 La Gramiere.

À bientôt,

Friday, September 19, 2008

I Am Sleeping Very Well, Thank You

Oh, yes, we are finally picking. Late Tuesday evening, I got a call from Amy saying we were beginning in the morning. "Oh, can you make your French muffins for the morning." Aren't children wonderful?

Picking began because:
1. Rain was predicted for Thursday
2. The grapes were ready---how did we know? Because,
3. The wild boars (sangliers) were eating them (An animal I know it mother must love)

So we began on a perfect cool day. We finished one vineyard and yesterday we were onto the largest of the vineyards. We stopped about four o'clock---well, not exactly stopped as we had another three hours of destemming the grapes and cleaning the buckets and crates to be ready for the next round of picking.

Yes, it did rain about a half an inch last night which left a lot of moisture on the grapes,not especially good for adding to the wine. Alas, we are not picking today. Tomorrow, according to the biodynamic calendar, is a black day, therefore, we will not pick until Sunday. It will be time to prepare more food and go to the markets, and oh, bottle about 400 bottles of last year's wine.

The people who are helping us are wonderful. Our neighbor, Axel who is from Germany but has had a home in Vers for 30 years, has been in the vineyard everyday and enjoyed showing off his University of Denver shirt. And our little ones, Ellie and Cole, ate a little and giggled a lot.

À bientôt,


Friday, September 12, 2008

Roll Out the Barrels.....

Isn't the next line, "We'll have a barrel of fun."?

No, we did not pick yesterday. Wednesday evening, Amy announced that we would wait. The storms were not suppose to be as bad as predicted and the Mistral, strong northern winds, were to arrive to dry the rain. Our plans had changed again. Sooooo, what wonderful project would await us? One that I had never had on my list of things that I needed to do.

They are using barrels for some of their wines this year. The barrels were in the front of the house and needed to be transferred to the back of the house---only a short walk on the busy street, around the corner, into the back yard, along the sidewalk and down six steps to the perfect spot to fill them with hot water. No problem! As you can see it was team work. We only had to do four of the ten barrels, today! I am sure the others will soon have to make the trip.

Of course, that does not end their adventure. After emptying the water, they will be go up the six steps, into the winery and be hoisted to the tops of the cuves (vats) where they will rest. Another thing not on my list.

Yes, the rain did come in sheets. Now, for the winds. And the next picking date? Who knows! The grapes will tell us.

À bientôt,

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Time is Near!

It arrives tomorrow. We will begin to pick the white grapes. Actually, we will finish it tomorrow also as there are two small vineyards and the mildew and hail took a toll on these vineyards. So we have begun getting ready. First, we had to totally clean the presses as they will be used right away. The grapes will be placed inside the slatted wooden round barrels and a hydraulic press will squeeze the juices thru the holes in the slates. The vats are clean and waiting.

This afternoon? The pruners need to be sharpened and oiled, buckets brought down and cleaned, large crates cleaned, and maybe, just a sip of wine to keep us interested.

Matt arrived at our house this morning on his way to the vineyard with his friend, the thirty something tractor. He was spraying (I don't know what) to help attract light to warm the grapes to encourage them to ripen. Now, that sounds interesting.

Are you ready to pick tomorrow morning at sunrise? We must do it early as there is a forecast for an orage (thunderstorm) in the afternoon.

À bientôt,

Sunday, September 7, 2008

On the List---Dinner in the French Countryside

Sit back, close your eyes, and imagine the crimson sunset over the rolling hills covered in neat rows of vines all laden with dark, purple globes waiting to be picked. Now picture a tiny, one lane country road leading to this single sign---Le Mazet. What is this place? We only see the back of a honey colored building. Walking around the side, we find the most wonderful terrasse covered with vines all aglow with a soft yellow light. Under this canopy are tables waiting to be filled with those anticipating a French country meal. Here we sit for an unforgetable evening.

Amidst welcomes by the two proprieters (along with his two sisters, who were not there), we found our seats. The menu arrived on a board and was explain thoroughly to us. Amy and Matt had been there before so knew the sisters. ( ) Their mother had been the chef at the restaurant until she was needed to work the vineyards, one vineyard having been in the family since the 1400s. He had returned to reopen the restaurant.

The meal, as he said after I complimented him on it, was very simple and it was. The flavors were delicious. Herring, barracuda, steak, seafood, baby pork, tellines, and desserts.

The crescent moon slide down below the hills and the stars with no lights to hinder their view of earth looked upon us as we left. A night in the French countryside---put this on your list of things you must do.

Restaurant Le Mazet
Saint Marcel d'Ardèche
04 75 90 50 46

À bientôt,

(Click on any picture to enlarge!)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Meet Us for a Glass of Wine---6:00?

Joe and I were early to meet everyone for dinner. Our path let us to a small wine bar in a narrow passageway leading from the main area of the city. Six tables gathered around the Caveau du Chai d'Uzès--- one just begging us to sit down. So we did! Gazing at the wine and tapas list on the blackboard, we both commented how wonderful it would be if in Colorado Springs we could have a good glass of wine for these same prices.

Well, join us anyway.

Á bientôt,

Imagine this day

If you happen to be a gentleman of the village, your days are rather full of excitement. After ambling to the bakery for your morning bread, you will probably go to the bench at the end of our road to enjoy the sun and keep track of who is passing. After a leisurely chat with others, you will jaunt, all be it slowly, to the park across the way. Under the filtered light of the plane trees, the remaining day will be spent playing boules (petanque) with your assembled colleagues. Ah, what a fine day.

As I walked through the village a couple of days ago, I noticed that the park was covered with falling leaves. This could be a problem (as you can see by our statue who is thinking about it) to the anticipated players. Ah, but our wonderful village workers began sweeping the area so the game could continue.

Tomorrow---oh, it will be about the same. And if you wish to add a new dimension to your life, I know just the bench to begin on.

À bientôt,

Monday, September 1, 2008

It Disappeared!

Once again Saturday was market day and we anticipated which pastry each would choose. As we entered the shop, the cakes and tarts in the front window were very enticing but quite large to eat in one sitting (but both of us are willing to try). The clerk just rolls her eyes when she sees us coming as she know the selection will take time. My choice? Le Dauphinoise, a walnut and caramel treat. Joe, after much deliberation, pointed to Le Forêt Noir, layers of dark chocolate. Carefully the box was placed in our basket and we jostled our way through the crowds to the perfect "people watching" table. There, in anticipation of the tastes inside, we opened the box. My pastry was a glistening caramel and Joe's......wasn't there! He had no pastry! With a disappointed look on his face, he decided he would just get a pain au chocolate rather than fight the crowds to the patissiere again. As we left the village we did stop for his treasure.

I am sorry. By the time I went to take a picture of his confection, this is all I saw.

Á bientôt,

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Picnic? No Two!

Those who live in Southern France know how to enjoy people and foods. The place--- Lauzettes, one of the La Gramiere vineyards that overlooks the village of Castillon du Gard, the evening, warm with gentle breezes, the people, friends and soon to be friends of Amy and Matt's, our daughter and son-in-law, the occasion, a summer's picnic. All who were invited brought a dish to share and something to put on the grill.

We arrived about an hour before to help set up tables, grills, and wine glasses, of course. The grapes are a deep purple hidden amongst the leaves just waiting for the perfect moment to be picked. Friends began to arrive, some we knew and others that we would know before the evening ended. I had made a tomato tart with ingredients from the Saturday market. As the sun set in the crimson sky we feasted upon all the wonderful foods.

The following evening, our neighborhood had a picnic outside our front door. We placed candles in all of our windows, set up tables, two wonderful paintings hung on the walls of our neighbors home, and of course, the gleaming Christmas tree lights. Michele, the artist, created this creature on the temporary light pole that should be moved in about 20 years. The people, fascinating. The lady who had been mayor of the village for 35 years, Albert and Pierre who presented a delicious sangria, Nicole who was going to Alexandria to head schools, Nana who is on the village council, Odette who we wave to each morning as she walks to get her bread. Wine flowed, food was shared, new friends were made. It was midnight as we cleaned up. Albert and Pierre enticed us to join them for a drink at their home. Of course, we couldn't refuse---or didn't want to. The drink? A choice of Verveine or a Thyme liquor both from plants they had collected from the garrigue, the dense low growing forests at the edge of the vineyards. At 1:30 we wondered home---glad we didn't have to drive!

Enjoy a wonderful summer weekend with friends. We will think of you.

À bientôt,

Monday, August 25, 2008

Have a seat----here is your fork.....

Yes, you will need your fork. The time was finally right (gosh, I think anytime is right) to begin our current research. The morning was beautiful, a little cool, perfect for coffee and oh, a pastry. Savarin had every pastry imaginable as it was market day and others had the same idea as we did. Joe pondered and pondered. I didn't! La Tulipe had been gently calling my name since our trip in February. Today, it yelled out very loudly! It is a crepe filled with a chestnut creme and candied chestnuts on top. Joe was still looking. His decision, La Plasier, a chocolate and vanilla yummy. Naturally, the name means pleasure/delight. Be sure to savor every bite. Would you believe each of these cost 2.10 Euros? Hmmm, I guess I had better begin dreaming about my next choice.

A Bientot, Cindy