Friday, November 30, 2007

Puppy Pic Of The Week

Callie sits in the long grass out in the vineyard during a recent walk. This is the walk during which she ran away with Lily. I had to go back out and search for her when she didn't follow me home. Ken had to come out and search for the two of us when I didn't come home after sunset.

I found Callie out at the end of the road, with Lily and her owner. Her owner said, "Oh, I was going to bring Callie back to your house." Yes, I thought, how nice. But when we first saw you, we were very close to my house, and now you're way, way out at the end of the vineyard...

I know it's not her fault. It's not Callie's fault. I have to do a better job. With a leash.

We all made it home safely.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Going To The Dogs

I have to say, I'm becoming a curmudgeon. An old fart. A churl. A grumpy old guy. And I'm not even old. Yet.

Callie, our border collie, gets two walks a day. One in the morning, at sunrise, and another in the afternoon. The timing of the afternoon walk depends on the weather and when the sun sets. In the summer, the afternoon walk usually happens in the evening, after 6pm, since it doesn't get dark until after 10pm.

One of the guys that works in the vineyard, his dog Max, and Callie.

But in the winter, when it gets dark around 5pm, we need to get out there at around 4:30pm. These are still work hours, and the vineyard workers are out there doing their thing. We try to avoid them so that Callie doesn't jump all over them, but often we can't, and we stop and chat and they play a little with the dog. One of the guys has a dog named Max (short for Maxine, I think; she's a female). Max hangs out with her human all day while he prunes and burns vines.

Max and Callie have met and get along fine. Max stays pretty close to her master, so as we walk by, the two dogs greet and play a bit and then we go on. So far, so good.

Every once in a while, and not very often, we'll see a neighbor out with his or her dog. Same scenario. We meet and greet and then go our separate ways. This has been going on for four years, first with Collette and now with Callie.

Callie and Max.

But this past year there is some new neighbor somewhere in town - they don't live in our hamlet - that has been showing up in the vineyard in the afternoons on a regular basis. Her dog's name is Lily. Callie and Lily also get along well. Too well. They take off together. Lily bounds over to find Callie and then runs off with her.

Going our separate ways doesn't work. Lily will seek out Callie and then take off with her, and Callie goes. I think the lady brings Lily over to our vineyard just to find Callie. And this lady has absolutely nothing to say. She's boring. We have nothing to say to each other (I'm pretty boring, myself).

This week I nearly lost it. Lily, Max, and Callie all met at the same moment out among the vines. Callie is the smallest of the three, but she's the fastest, and being a border collie, she likes to herd the other dogs around. They were in doggy-dog heaven. I was in dog owner hell.

Off they went, bounding through dirt and mud. Out of sight. Toward the road where cars and trucks frequently speed by. And the three of us humans just stood there smiling, saying things like, "Isn't it nice that they all get along so well." And then I have to explain for the hundredth time that I speak to Callie in English because I'm an American and that she doesn't understand French commands so stop trying to talk to her because she doesn't get what you're saying.

Here's where the curmudgeonly part comes in. I CAN'T STAND THIS!

I want to walk in the vineyard alone with my dog, alone with my thoughts. I don't want to make small talk to boring people. Heck, I don't want to make small talk to interesting people, at least not in the vineyard. I don't want to hang out with other people and other people's dogs. If I wanted to be social, I would have stayed in the city and gone to dog parks and not moved to the country! Dammit.

Now, before you scold me, I know it's good for Callie to have doggy friends to run and play with. I know I should teach Callie some commands in French. I know I have some advice for you, too, if you'd like to hear it. But for now I'll just keep it to myself. ;)

There. I feel much better now.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Word Of The Week


I started seeing this word on the computer. Some of the software on my pc is in French, of course, and I have had to learn a lot of computer lingo all over again. Much of it is borrowed directly from English and the rest is usually easy to figure out from context.

Today's word usually shows up in e-mail programs. It means "draft," like when you're saving a message that you haven't finished composing yet. Confusing it with corbeille, which means trash can or recycle bin, can get you into big trouble.

But I saw another meaning for brouillon recently in the tv guide. The description of a film mentioned that the script and the directing were brouillons.

As it turns out, this means that they are what I think we'd call "all over the map," mixed up, confused, or without any apparent order.

The verb, brouiller, means to mix up, to confuse, to render unclear. There's an expression in French, brouiller les pistes, which more or less means to put someone on the wrong track, to make it difficult to follow one's trail, or to make something hard to trace. I first heard this expression in a song by Canadian singer Roch Voisine.

And brouillard, or fog, comes from this root as well. It's not hard to see why.

Se débrouiller, on the other hand, means to make your way, to get by, or to make do. I do this all the time in French. There's a great French expression: le système d (d stands for débrouiller). It jokingly refers to having to figure things out for yourself, or being on your own. How did you get to work during the train strike? Système d.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kitchen Collection [50]

It's the 50th edition of Kitchen Collection! Wow. So, let's celebrate with pie. Or, pie servers, that is.

These are our three pie servers, or shovels, as they're called in French. The newest is the one on the bottom. Ken just brought it back from the US. It's from the Martha Stewart collection, of course. Apparently she doesn't use it anymore...

Pie, anyone?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Same Old New Wine

The week before Thanksgiving saw the official release of the 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau, the fresh, fruity new wine of the year. All around France the release of new wine goes on this time of year, from the Rhône Valley to right here in the Touraine region.

The 2007 New Wines arrive chez nous.

Our local version of new wine is called Touraine Primeur. Like its counterpart in Beaujolais, Touraine Primeur is made from the gamay grape.

But there's something different this year. Unlike in years past, there isn't any fanfare. There was no huge news event, just a little mention at the end of the television news broadcast.

I read some articles online that said that in Japan, historically one of the largest consumers of Beaujolais Nouveau, the excitement around the annual November release is dying down and sales are off. Some of the reasons cited were the strong Euro, which is making the wine more expensive, a crackdown on drinking and driving in Japan, and the increasingly sophisticated Japanese palate.

Has the new wine craze then finally reached an end? Time will tell. After all, it's been going on since the 1950s, reaching a worldwide crescendo in the 1980s and 1990s. Here in our house, we buy a few bottles every year, both from Beaujolais and our local Touraine producers. Of course, the wine doesn't have to travel halfway across the world to get to us.

And, while new wine is not a high gastronomic treat, we still enjoy it. It's another way to celebrate Fall and to mark the passage of time.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Again With The Frost?

Here's another shot of our recent frosty mornings. I know there will be more. Heck, it's not even winter yet.

The remains of an apple tree with the vineyard behind, as seen from my bedroom window. Yup, that's mistletoe growing in the tree.

We're having fires in the wood stove pretty much every evening now. Heat's on in the morning. Soon we'll have the heat on all day long, then off in the evening while the fire's going.

It's this time of year when I realize how far north we are compared to what we were used to in Northern California. The sun doesn't rise until after 8am, and sets around 5pm. There will be even more darkness as we approach the solstice.

But then, the days start getting longer again. Slowly.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Unclear On The Concept?

Maybe it's just me. Our prescriptions came from the pharmacy in this bag this week:

It says, more or less, "Sandoz Generic Drugs. Sandoz: A Brand You Can Trust."

Now, I thought that the term "generic" meant that there was no brand name, no advertising, no fancy packaging, all toward the goal of making the cost and price of a particular product lower.

Not only do my "generic" prescriptions come in nice packaging with a brand name, but they also now come in a fancy bag that advertises them.

So I looked up the word générique as applied to drugs in the Petit Robert. It seems to mean that the trademark, or the equivalent of the patent, for the drug's formula has moved into the public domain so that any company can make and sell it. By extension, a produit générique is one without a brand name.

It seems that I was the one who was unclear on the concept. Another mystery solved.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Puppy Pic Of The Week

Callie takes a good long drink after gobbling down her Thanksgiving kibble on Thursday. Ah, the holidays!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

Just a quick post on this Thanksgiving day. It's a day like any other here in France, of course. Ken and I will have our traditional T-day dinner of gigot d'agneau (leg of lamb) with flageolets (beans). And I'm preparing to make a pumpkin pie this morning.

The Saint-Aignan municipal pool, over on the island.

There's even football on TV later, but I probably won't watch it. Two college games, then Green Bay v. Detroit at 6:00 and at 10:00pm, Jets v. Cowboys. I'll see football over the weekend.

The church at Saint-Aignan rises above the town's rooftops.

Later, I'll pick up the phone and call some family back on the East coast. Of course, because of the time difference, our day will be winding down while theirs is winding up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Word Of The Week


This word applies to my experience yesterday. I drove, amid the rail strikes, to Paris to pick up Ken at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Quelle galère!

The primary meaning of galère is a type of sailing ship of old. Although they had masted sails, galères were often propelled by scores of rowers, typically criminals or slaves, chained to benches on either side of the ship. To be condemned to les galères was to be punished by being put into service as a rower on one of these ships, known in English as being sent to the galleys.

Later, les galères came to be known as any forced labor meted out in punishment.

These days, une galère is anything (especially work) that's a real pain in the ass. Like the traffic I encountered around Paris on my way to the airport yesterday. It was a crawl. I spent about two and half hours inching my way around the city from the A-10 in Massy, around the A-86 through Créteil, then up to the A-4 near Joinville. I might have walked it faster.

Once on the A-4 I was heading east, away from Paris, and the traffic dissipated. Then up to the A-3, the A-1, and on to Roissy, all at normal speed. I got there about 10:00 am, after having left my house at 5:00 am. Ken had just come out of customs when I got there (his flight was late), so it all worked out. And although going home again was a long ride (we went a different way), there was no serious traffic. We were glad to be home safe and warm again.

But that traffic! It reminded me of the San Francisco Bay Area. I imagine people fight with similar traffic on a daily basis. Not me. Quelle galère!

Image from:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kitchen Collection [49]

I don't ever remember seeing one of these when I was a kid. It wasn't until I met Ken that I first heard of a potato ricer. A what?

Our first ricer was an old one. We may have gotten it at a second hand store (there was a great second hand kitchen store on Divisadero Street in SF back in the day; I wonder if it's still there) or it could have come from his mother.

Our potato ricer. Do you have one?

I learned that it was for making purée, or mashed potatoes. The ricer is a simple press for passing cooked potatoes through holes about the size of a grain of rice, effectively mashing them. The resulting texture, however, is much finer and more uniform than a traditionally mashed potato. Of course almost any root vegetable can go through the ricer, like carrots, turnips, or even celeriac. Sunday I made a purée of topinambours using the ricer.

A food mill works just as well, if not better. But if you're only doing a small amount, I think the ricer is easier to clean up. Our current ricer is pictured here. All modern stainless, but the same classic design.

I'm posting early this morning because I'm on my way to Paris to pick up Ken. His flight arrives this morning and with the strikes, train travel will be iffy, especially with all the luggage he's carrying. Also, because of the train strikes, traffic around Paris is supposed to be a bear. So, wish us luck!

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Frosty Fotos

Like I said yesterday, we had a very frosty Sunday morning. After it got a little brighter, I went out into the yard and took a few more pictures. Of course, the whole time I was out there, a certain dog (who shall remain nameless) was jumping all over me, knocking into my subjects, causing everything to move. I love dogs.

A rosebud frozen in time. It probably won't open now.

A black-eye Susan.

The prunus tree sets buds in the fall for next spring, as do a lot of plants in the yard.

A cosmos flower.

An ice-tinged leaf.

Frozen apple, anyone?

So this morning, Monday, the low temperature is around 5ºC (around 40ºF). A veritable heat wave. Everything is back to shades of brown and deep green and, as it rained overnight, there are puddles everywhere.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cold Sunday Morning

This is the third day we've had below freezing temperatures in the morning. And today there is a heavy fog out there that has condensed and frozen on everything. I think they call it a brouillard givrant, or freezing fog.

You can see it best in the trees in the background. I'll try to get some more photos a bit later. This is taken from our deck, looking across the street.

It's more pronounced out in the vineyard but it's pretty right around the house. It's still much too dark for taking photos when I'm walking the dog between 7:30 and 8:00. But just a half hour later and there's plenty of light.

Today's a hunt day, so I won't be venturing out there with the camera this morning. I could get shot! But I may go try to take some pix of the vineyard over the back gate. You'll have to wait for another post to see them.

There's a thin layer of ice on the pond out behind the yard. It's unusual for it to be so cold at this time of the year here. The Bread Lady told me that it hasn't been this cold in November in at least ten years. The weather people are saying that temperatures are well below seasonal norms all over the country.

But, it will be warming up. There's a front coming through this evening that may bring us some snow showers as it hits the cold air, but it's a warm front and the forecast is for rain for the next two days, and no freezing temperatures over night.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Côtes De Porc Au Fenouil

Or, if you prefer, pork chops with fennel.

I started by boiling some potatoes in water with some salt, a bay leaf, and a few allspice berries (Ken taught me that). Then, I sprinkled the pork chops with a seasoning mix that our friend Cheryl gave us. It's a hot Texas spice mix, a salty herb and cayenne blend.

I love fennel cooked this way.

Finally, I quartered two fennel bulbs and braised them in chicken stock. When they were just about done, I pan-seared the seasoned pork chops, then ladled some of the fennel/chicken stock into the pan. In went the cooked potatoes to warm up, then I put a lid on it and let it simmer for about ten minutes.

Et voilà! Lunch is served. Needless to say, I made enough to have leftovers for another day.

Saturday morning's low: -3.7ºC (about 25ºF). Another cold morning predicted for Sunday, then much warmer (above freezing) for the next couple of days. That's because a rain system is headed our way and they bring in warm, moist air.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Puppy Pic Of The Week

Callie enjoys a break in the grass every now and then. When she's not running, digging, barking, chasing, chewing, tugging, or rolling.

So Thursday afternoon we went for our usual evening walk. There's a waxing moon high in the sky. This puppy dog could not stop running up and down the rows of vines chasing the darned moon. At least she got a good workout.

I saw on a French science show just the other day that when you see a crescent moon and draw an imaginary line through the top point to the bottom point, it will either resemble a "p" or a "d."

When it resembles the letter "p," it's précriossant, or waxing, and the points point toward the east. When it resembles the letter "d," it's décroissant, or waning, and the points point toward the west. At least in the northern hemisphere.

Cool, non?

Speaking of cool, Friday morning's low (so far) is -2.8ºC (about 27ºF). Brrrrrrr.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

And A Frosty Morning To You!

Woke up to freezing temperatures this morning. There's some frost out there, and the puddles are frozen over. The upside is that when everything is frozen, Callie's feet don't get as wet during her walk.

The view from our kitchen window at 8:30 this morning. Doesn't look too cold, does it?

It's supposed to be even colder tomorrow morning. I got the pumpkins into the garage, as well as the car, and some stray dahlia bulbs. I should do some more mulching today. I should do a lot of things...

A close up of the frost. There's more frost in the vineyard, but I didn't take the camera out on our walk this morning.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Word Of The Week


This verb is a difficult one for me, and I'm not sure that I'm going to get it right in this post. But I'll give it a shot.

The other day, while exchanging coins for bread with the Bread Lady, she and I talked about the weather. We often do. It was overcast and not particularly cold, but there was a steady wind blowing from the north that made it feel cold. When I mentioned this, she agreed it felt cold. "Ça se sent," I said, intending to mean that you could feel it. She responded immediately with, "Oui, on le ressent." I felt as if she were correcting me. I know I've had this trouble with sentir and ressentir before.

Sentir means to feel. Both physically and perception-wise, as far as I can tell from the dictionary. You can feel the book in your hand. You can feel threatened. It can also mean to smell, as you do with your nose. So did I say I could feel the cold or did I say I could smell the cold?

When you put the "se" in front of sentir, it means that whatever your talking about can be felt. Like the cold. Ça se sent.

So, did Roselyne's response correct me because ressentir makes it clear that I could feel the cold as opposed to smell it? Or was she just doing the typical French thing of agreeing with me by saying the same thing I just said in a different way?

Ressentir means to experience a sensation, to feel it. Like feeling the effects of a hard workout, feeling pain, love, or outrage. Or, I suppose, the effect of the cold wind.

So does one have to do with the physical, while the other is more about the emotional? If so, why did the Bread Lady use ressentir? Do both words mean the same thing; can you use them interchangeably?

There's a old song by the French group Téléphone called "Ça, c'est vraiment toi" that includes the line, "Ça se sent que c'est toi." I never know if it means, "I can tell that it's you," or "I can smell that it's you."

Another song, by Johnny Hallyday, called "Ce que je sais," includes these lyrics:

Ce que je sais, ce que je sens
Non jamais, non personne
N'a su pour moi
Ce que je sais, ce que je ressens
Ça je le sais, je le sais maintenant

What I know, what I feel (sentir)
No one ever knew it for me
What I know, what I feel (ressentir)
I know it, I know it now.

What's the meaning of using both forms of "feel?" Does it just make the song work better lyrically or is there a difference in meaning? This is probably one of those things that people who have really studied French learn and retain.

As for me, I remain confused. Maybe one of my readers can help.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kitchen Collection [48]

Have you ever wanted to get olives out of a jar without having to drain the whole jar? Well, this little thing is the answer.

It's an olive spoon. Slotted, of course, and just the right size to get olives out of a jar. I never thought I needed something like this until it was given to us as a gift. Now I know that I can't live without it.

Well, maybe I can, but you know what I mean.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Risotto À La Japonaise

Last week I picked up some nice looking mushrooms at the supermarket, thinking that I'd use them on pizza. I ended up not using them that way. So I had to figure out what to do with them.

These mushrooms needed to be eaten.

I decided that on Sunday I would make a mushroom risotto. I had some frozen peas and thought they would be great in the dish. So I went for it.

The first step was the mise en place. That included sautéing the mushrooms and chopping some onions, getting some white wine out, grating some parmesan cheese, and thawing some of the chicken broth that I made and froze on Saturday.

Here they are, sautéed for my risotto dish.

The only hitch was that I did not have any Italian arborio rice. But I do have a ton of Japanese sushi rice, which is round and starchy, not unlike arborio rice. So I gave it a try. Hence the title of this post.

The finished risotto, with peas and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Now, if I were a professional, that pan would have been cleaned and the finished risotto put in at the last minute for the picture. But, alas, I'm just a hungry home cook.

It worked out fine. I sautéed the mushrooms, then made the risotto using the white wine and the chicken stock. The peas went in about halfway through and everything worked wonderfully.

Needless to say, it was delicious. I wouldn't have written this post had it not worked out...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hang 'Em High

I don't know what they did to deserve it, but these bears were hanged on the island. What a grim sight. Maybe they were caught rustlin' cattle, or pinching leeks. Who knows?

It's like a scene from a Tim Burton movie...

I suspect that they're there as scarecrows, but I bet they only scare people. They scared me. Callie barked at them. But then, Callie barks at flies.

On a lighter note, we also got to see the Château de Saint-Aignan looming above the gardens. I hope it wasn't the lord of the castle that ordered the bears strung up.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fall Yard Work

Callie was driving me crazy on Friday morning begging me to play with her sock and ropes, over and over, and when not doing that, nosing around in the fireplace for charcoal to eat or licking the bases of the lamps. Aaaaagh!

Our four square garden plots are tilled up for the winter (with the exception of part of one which is the perennial herb garden). Ken did that before he left for the US.

So I decided that we needed to go outdoors and get some work done. It was about 7.5ºC (mid 40s F), but I was determined. So was Callie.

Callie heads for me under the big apple tree.

She barked at me as I used the rake to level a few mole hills. She barked at me while I rolled the wheelbarrow around to pick up a few stray apples, then she barked at me when I got the lawnmower out of the shed and attached the grass catcher to it. I did throw an apple around the yard for her to chase a few times. About the third time she sat down and ate it.

You can see the before/after effect here along the line of our hazelnut trees. All those suckers around their bases need to be cut off before spring. More work to do.

So I got one section, the largest section, of the yard mowed. The mowing needed to be done, but it gave me the added bonus of mulching up the fallen leaves so I don't have to rake them. I hate raking. And I put the mulched leaves and clippings into the garden to decompose.

Another view of the row of hazelnut trees, looking east.

I still have two more sections of yard to do, but they will either get done or they won't. I'll see how I feel this afternoon and tomorrow and what the weather does. Still, as messy as things are out there right now, the place looks pretty, at least to my eyes. And it feels good to get something done out there.

Outside the back gate, the vines have lost most of their leaves. The growers are out there pruning and burning already.

I came indoors just as the bread lady got here. I put a chicken leg on to braise with carrots, celery, onion, white wine, and spices for my lunch. I finished it off in the oven with the leftover potato gratin I did a few days ago. I was amazed at how good it turned out to be.

My chicken leg with carrots and celery and leftover potatoes. Boy, it was spicy and good!

After, I had some leeks in vinaigrette, then a piece of tomme noire, followed by an applesauce muffin for dessert. Yum!

This morning's low temperature was 4.3ºC (around 38ºF), and it's overcast. There's a decent north wind blowing and it feels colder than it really is. Wind chill, I guess. I got bundled up and ventured out in the early light with Callie.

She has no patience for snoozing and demands to go out for her walk at first light. Realize, of course, that dogs see light differently from the way you and I do. First light for a dog is still the black of night for us humans. Well, not quite, but when you have sleep in your eyes it sure feels that way. I suppose I could just get up and let her out and climb back to bed, but once I'm up, I might as well go all the way.

Now we're back and she's eaten and had her treats. But there's something new this morning. Callie discovered the suet ball that I hang on the balcony railing in the winter (I know, it's not winter yet) for the birds. Actually, it's the birds she's discovered. She is standing at the door barking at the suet ball. The bird that was feeding there has long since gone. But that suet ball is still there. Must. Bark. At. Suet.

My internet surfing is done for this morning. I have to go play now. Bye.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Puppy Pic Of The Week

Callie is learning to be patient in the kitchen. Slowly learning, that is. Sometimes she will actually sit on the floor and watch what's going on.

Callie sits patiently on the kitchen floor hoping for a tasty morsel.

I know she's hoping that something good will come her way. Sometimes she gets a little something in her dish. Other times things "fall" to the floor and she gets 'em. Either way, patience and good behavior pay off.

It's better than begging and jumping up with forepaws on the counter.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Last week, I made pizza dough and had a pizza bolognese for lunch. The dough I make is enough for two pizzas, so I froze half of it.

Last week's pizza with meat sauce and cheese.

I decided to have another pizza for lunch yesterday. So the afternoon before, I took out the frozen dough and put it in the fridge to thaw and rise. It rose long and slow in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, I took it out to warm up. Once it was at room temperature, I punched the dough down, shaped the pizza disk, covered it with a towel and let it rise for another hour.

My leek and bacon pizza, just the right size for lunch.

I topped it with sautéed lardons (smoked bacon) and leeks. I added a bit of grated cantal cheese. Wow, was it a great lunch. Served with a bottle of local gamay, of course.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Word Of The Week


I feel weird writing about this now, because we're not having any. But when I put it on my list, it was last week, and we were in the midst of mist. Or bruine.

La bruine in the vineyard behind our house. This was a few winters ago.

For la bruine is mist. Heavy fog, or mist. Not quite rain, but not quite fog, either. Whatever it is, it's wet. It was a good word to know when we lived in San Francisco, because it was the typical weather condition there.

Here, we get it every now and then. Mostly in the fall and winter. Actually, the weather forecast for tomorrow, Thursday, is couvert, bruines ou pluie (overcast, mist or rain).

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Kitchen Collection [47]

We all have a toaster in our kitchens, no? When we moved to France, Ken and I bought un grille-pain, or French toaster. It's only got one slot, and it's large enough to accommodate nearly half a baguette.

This is the control panel of our Tokiwa toaster.

The brand name? Well, we don't stand on ceremony. You figure it out. And how many toasters do you know that have a defrost setting? Heh, heh. By the way, why is there a setting lower than defrost?

When we lived in San Francisco, we didn't own a toaster, per se. We had a toaster oven, in which all the toasting functions resided. But we don't have a toaster oven any more, so we have a toaster. And we use it often!

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's Certainly Fall

Part of our backyard, with leaves turning color, and the vineyard getting browner.

Fall is my favorite time of the year. Fires in the fireplace, or in our case, the wood stove. Good foods made with pumpkin and apples. Football on tv, even here in France. And, of course, the leaves are changing color and falling into the yard.

Most of the leaves have fallen from the two red maples in our front yard.

That means there's raking to be done. Oh, well. There's always work to do.

The ornamental cherry has gone yellow, tinged with red.

These are a few images of this year's fall season at our place. I hope that wherever you are, you're having a great fall, too.

One of our pumpkins sits on the table out on the deck, with autumn leaves as a backdrop.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mac & Cheese, French Style

I'm trying to be creative with my leftovers. Last week I made a bolognèse sauce that I ate with coquillettes, little elbow macaroni. Afterward, I had a bunch of that cooked pasta leftover in the fridge. So, with a bit of frozen spinach and a small slice of comté cheese also hanging out in the fridge, I had an idea.

The finished gratin comes out of the oven.

I whipped up a quick béchamel* in the microwave. Then zapped the spinach to thaw it and get it hot. I mixed it with about a third of the béchamel in the bottom of my gratin dish. I then sprinkled that with about a third of the grated cheese.

Cheesy, rich, and good!

Next, I mixed the pasta into remaining béchamel, put it in the dish on top of the spinach/cheese layer, and topped it with the remaining cheese. I moistened some bread crumbs with olive oil, salt, and pepper and layered that on top. Into the oven for about 30 minutes, and voilà, lunch!

It was tasty, too!

*Béchamel is a basic white sauce made with a roux of butter and flour, then milk, salt & pepper, and a little grated nutmeg. It's easy to make in a microwave oven.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Un Foutage De Gueule

Maybe this belongs in a word of the week post, but I wanted to write about it before I forgot. And the pictures are gratuitous.

We all know the expression, "se foutre de la gueule." It means to mock, more or less. "Tu te fous de ma gueule?" means, essentially, are you ridiculing me?

Saint-Aignan-Sur-Cher seen from the island.

In a news report on Wednesday, a woman was complaining about something that had happened to her and the response of the people responsible. I can't remember now whether it was a company or a government agency, or what, but they had basically kissed her off. She told the reporter, "J'appelle ça un foutage de gueule."

One of two access points for cars to the island.

I had never heard the expression used that way before and it made me laugh. I'm not certain that "foutage" is even a word. Does anyone know?