Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to Make Cheese

As I was searching the internet for links to use in yesterday's blog post about the marche gourmande we visited on Sunday evening, I found this video. It's about 'our' sheep cheese farm, La Tomme de Carayac and begins with some scenes of the Saturday morning market in Figeac. Even though it's in French, it's easy to follow the steps in the cheese-making process. I'd like to think that a chunk of one those cheeses he's making is sitting right now in my refrigerator!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fun at the Farm

There was an almost embarrassing number of activities going on this past Sunday. I narrowed my choices down to three: Africajarc*, the village mechouidinner, and a marche gourmande*/open farm event up on the causse. Jean, Greg and I opted for the farm as we had all ordered barquettes* of snails from the snail guy and could pick them up during the market. I also wanted to buy some sheep cheese produced there on the farm. We found quite a crowd when we arrived...lots of children running around, musicians wandering and entertaining, and good aromas wafting through the air as vendors began cooking lamb, coucous, stuffed vegetables, and paella. The sheep, unfortunately, were not very attractive. But they must be good milk producers because....
their cheese is rich and delicious! I bought two chunks: the one on the left is vielle tomme de brebis*; the one on the right is jeune tomme de brebis * I've sampled both and I'm not disappointed...they're yummy. Sorry, I can't show you the snails as they are already in the freezer. Maybe when I heat them up to eat, I'll remember to take their picture.
Africajarc...an annual weekend celebration of all things African in Cajarc
Mechoui...summer village roasted sheep dinner served with beans and onion soup with big chunks of  
                 baguette in it
Marche gourmande....food market
Causse...dry, rocky plateau above the river valley
Vielle tomme de brebis...aged sheep cheese
Jeune tomme de brebis...young sheep cheese

If you click on the link for marche gourmande, you will see a video shot in 2007. While the cheese producers are the same, our markets haven't had a hot air balloon! It's fun to watch it fill and take off, though, and delightful to hear the excited children watching it.

Found this video of last year's open farm.Wish the band had been there yesterday!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Color: Sunflower Yellow

When I drove to Caroline's house in Gaillac last week for lunch, I was delighted to see fields that were planted in corn last summer aglow with sunflowers this year. Sunflowers are such happy, friendly flowers, aren't they? These are grown for their oil, not for their floral beauty, but they are joyous just the same. I photographed them in the early morning light as they were just beginning to feel the sun's warmth. They made me smile all day!

A field of sunflowers with the Gaillac village church in the background.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Along the Lot: Part 2

Early morning sun...
Hay raked, windrowed, and ready to bale...
Neighbors picking beans before the sun gets too hot...
Corn as high as an elephant's eye...
The Lot...cool and green and mellow.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Along the Lot: Part I

After a long, rainy and dismal spring, summer has arrived with a vengeance. It's been very warm the past two weeks. Lucie and I have been pushing our morning walks back earlier and earlier to avoid being out in the heat of the day. This morning we walked along the Lot, always pleasant but even more so in the cool of the early morning. Farmers here irrigate their crops along the river with these water cannons. The farmer across the river from my house runs his all night. There's something very cooling about hearing the water splash against the leaves of the corn when I close my shutters for the night.
Water is pumped through these pump houses dotted along the river bank to valve outlets by the farmers' fields. Using long sections of pipe, they connect to these valves and put the water cannon in just the right place to water their crops. On these very warm days, it feels really refreshing to accidentally get sprayed when you walk past the field.
Lucie cools off, though, by simply going for a swim!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dinner with a View

We ate dinner last evening sitting on this terrace with all of Cadrieu spread out before us. Not too shabby, huh?
The Chateau

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Beauty in a Bag

I'm sure garden centers in the States must have something similar to these green plastic sacks filled with tumbling flowers, but I don't remember ever seeing them. They are absolutely perfect for hanging against a wall or beam as you see here where a hanging basket would not lie flat. I bought this one at my local pepiniere for around $15. Since my sun porch gets very strong afternoon sun, the simple hot pink geranium works well. Geraniums are very popular here in France, but I've also seen les sacs planted with tumbling petunias...just the right flower for a cooler, less sunny spot.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sunday Celebration

How do you know you're celebrating a holiday in France? 
A strolling accordion player in the square of a tiny village might be your first clue.
Or perhaps being gathered 'round a table eating snails and drinking wine with friends might be another.
But surely the children carrying candle-lit Chinese lanterns following the Cajarc band around the square followed by fireworks from the bridge would be a dead-giveaway that it's 14 juillet...quatorze juillet...in France. We celebrated it well!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

From the Archives: Cucuron

I just finished reading a fun book called 'The Angel Tree' by Alex Dingwall-Main who is a landscape designer living in Provence. The book is about his search for an ancient olive tree for his wealthy client who wants it for a small courtyard at his Provencal estate. At one point in the search, Alex meets Mr. Rich Guy for lunch in Cucuron to report on his progress in finding the perfect ancient tree. From the description, I think they must have lunched right here where I did in 2007

My pilgrimage to Cucuron was inspired by the movie, "A Good Year" starring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard. They had their first date here at the bassin de l'estang transformed through Hollywood magic to a delightful outdoor theater/restaurant. I loved this village...enough touristy things to be interesting, but not inundated with so many visitors that I couldn't enjoy them.
It was in Cucuron that I took one of my very favorite photos of Provence.

Looking for light summer entertainment with a French flair? Try reading 'The Angel Tree' or rent "A Good Year."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Girls' Night Out at the Guinguette

I love the French custom of celebrating the completion of...well, anything! For example, my Wednesday morning gymnastics class had an end-of-the-session lunch. And last night, Janie organized an end-of-the-season dinner for our French/English women's singing group. (We'll break for the rest of the summer and resume practices again in the fall) Eight of us met at a new place across the river at Larnagol to celebrate. La Guinguette Bambou is an outdoor restaurant/bar serving snacks and simple meals. Historically, guinguettes were open-air drinking establishments and dance halls. There wasn't any dancing at ours, but there was a bit of singing after dinner as Janie pulled out the song sheets and we harmonized by the flickering light of citronella candles.
We laughed when Janie said we needed a name for our group. How about Voix Vielles (old voices) since we're all over 60? Someone suggested Voix Mûres instead. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be a 'ripe' voice than an 'old' one. I vote for Voix Mûres!

It was a lovely evening.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sheep or Goat?

Lucie and I took a little hike this morning over in the Cele Valley. We started in Espagnac and hiked to St. Eulalie and back along the river. Even though our path was mostly tree-lined and shady, we were really hot and sweaty by the time we returned. At least Lucie got to jump in the Cele and swim a bit to cool off! I spied this guy as we made our way back to the car. I'm not sure if he's a sheep or a goat, but I think he's really cute. I'm dedicating him to my friend, Edith. There's something about a sheep in a black beret that makes me smile and think of her.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Magical Evening

A fifteen minute drive from home....a 13th century Chateau on the edge of a charming village...
We gathered in the Chateau courtyard...
as the late evening sun began to cast long shadows across the valley below.
Our host for the evening shared a bit of family history before
we mounted the candle-illuminated staircase to the grand salon of Chateau Cenevieres.
9 pm and the stage is set for an evening of guitar magic.
Celine Cardinot and Olivier Bensa entertained us with music and song from Brazil, Argentina and Spain as well as tunes from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. After an encore, we all retired to the open courtyard for a glass of wine under a velvety sky sprinkled with stars, warm breezes punctuating a chat with our host who is the grandson of the couple who currently own the Chateau. Truly a magical evening!

Because my video really doesn't do justice to the beauty of their music, here is one from the Duo Cardinot-Bensa website: www.guitaresenbois.com

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Today is my Dad's 92nd birthday! I certainly hope I've inherited both his longevity and vitality genes...he's still going strong.  I predict we'll celebrate his 100th some day. You've seen other photos of his special Honor Flight weekend last month. Here he is by his home state pillar at the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C. He and my brother had a grand time visiting all the veterans' memorials, but the WWII memorial was the most significant for him as he served in the Pacific theater of operations during that war. He was in the Navy aboard an LST which saw action in Okinawa and the Philippines.
While my Dad wasn't a Marine, this iconic image of Marines raising the American flag at Iwo Jima seems a fitting way to honor all military men who saw action in the Pacific.

Bon anniversaire, mon pere. J'taime!!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Honoring Veterans

It's the 4th of July...Independence Day...in the United States. On this date in 1776, our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, separating the colonies from Great Britain and forming the United States of America. The service of men and women throughout our history has kept these United States free. Men, like my Dad, who put themselves in harm's way during World War II to defend freedom against tyranny in both Europe and the Pacific. This photo, taken by my brother, shows my Dad standing in front of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. during his Honor Flight weekend.The large arch commemorates action in the Pacific theater of operations where my Dad served. Each of the 56 pillars surrounding the pool represents one of the country's then-48 states as well as its territories.

After living here in Europe steeped in its history, I read the Declaration of Independence today with a new appreciation of just how radical our ancestors were. To see all men as created equal, to endow them with unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and to declare that government derives its power by the consent of those governed are truly unique and radical ideas compared to how most of Europe and the rest of the world was governed in those days.

So today I'd like to thank my Dad and other veterans for their service and for risking their lives to defend and uphold the freedom of the United States and its radical ideal of democracy for all.
Relief of a induction center during WWII. 
My Dad spent some time working in one in Columbus, GA which is where he met my Mom.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


My friend, Laury, did a post on her professional blog today about  imitating some of my flower close-ups. Thought I'd share the photo that she's talking about. This photo hung in her vernissage in 2010. It's hanging right now over the head of my bed complimented by a trio of 'sister' photos on a side wall. I think Laury's close-up is a hibiscus. This one is a hollyhock which are just coming into bloom here in the Lot.