Thursday, November 30, 2006

Photo Du Jour

A car glides through the vineyards out behind our house on a fall day. Fall has been nice this year, although we missed a whole month of it when we were in the USA. Nonetheless, November has been unseasonably warm and we've enjoyed the leaves that hung on for a while before turning scarlet and golden and falling to the ground.

They're nearly all gone now, but we are still having unseasonably warm weather. It's been raining a lot, which is good because we need the water. I expect we'll pay for this with a nice cold snap before too long. I wonder if we'll have snow this year?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm Not A Republican

Yes, it's true. I took the quiz:

You Are 0% Republican

If you have anything in common with the Republican party, it's by sheer chance.
You're a staunch liberal, and nothing is going to change that!

I don't have a word of the week prepared for today. I'll try again next week!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Eggplant Curry

Last summer, when we were harvesting eggplant from the garden, we made many eggplant dishes. Among them was an eggplant and tofu curry, which was delicious. There was so much that we froze half of it. I had also made nan, an Indian bread that goes well with curry, and froze half of that, too.

So this past weekend, in between eating the Thanksgiving lamb and its leftovers, we broke out the curry to give us a nice change of pace.

The eggplant and tofu curry is served!

We made some basmati rice to go with the curry.

A cucumber and yogurt salad was a refreshing side to the spicy-hot curry.

Home made nan with toasted black sesame seeds... yum!

We washed it all down with a Côtes du Rhône nouveau. A November treat!

Monday, November 27, 2006

More Leaves

These are from our yard a few days ago. Most of these leaves are gone now. Winter is surely on its way.

Above, the three birch trees in the yard on the north side of the house. The house is named les bouleaux, which means the birches. There are stands of birch in the woods around the area.

This is a weeping birch next to our driveway.

There's also a weeping cherry nearby that's covered with beautiful pink blossoms in the spring. It's often the first tree to flower around us each year.

A pinson des arbres picks up seeds that the great tits let fall from the suet ball on our terrace. It's known as a chaffinch in English, one of the most common finches in Europe.

Detail of the weeping cherry tree. It's a fruitless tree, by the way, but its blossoms in spring are terrific.

In summer our house feels like a tree house; out of every window is a view of limbs and lush green leaves. In fall those views turn golden and scarlet, and when the light is right, the colors seem to be reflected right into the house.

In winter, the brilliant colors are replaced by bare limbs and stems, still beautiful, but in a more stark way. We can see through the now-transparent woods around the house to neighboring hillsides and valleys hidden by the leaves. And although the sun is lower in the sky, it filters through the bare trees and can still cast shadows inside the house.

Can you tell that we're still getting used to having four seasons again? I enjoy the changes, and knowing that in four months the bulbs will be up, the weeping cherry will be in full flower, and all the other trees will be heavy with buds.

But, first things first: winter begins in 24 days.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Leftovers Again ?

On Friday we, like most people who do the Thanksgiving thing, enjoyed leftovers:

First, Ken boiled some potatoes. Then he made a fresh mayonnaise. Next, the roast leg of lamb got sliced up and served along side some of our home-grown and home-roasted red peppers. A green salad and a baguette rounded out the meal. Of course, there was left-over pumpkin pie for dessert!

Today, Sunday, Ken is using the remaining lamb for what's called hachis Parmentier. In the states it's called a shepherd's pie. He is certain to include photos on his site, so check it out.

My task for the day is to move our indoor clothesline; it's in a very inconvenient spot right now. We've been talking about moving it for some time, but hadn't gotten a round tuit. Now that I've got my tuit, I'm gonna do it. It involves some measuring and drilling into masonry. Oh boy, power tools!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dinner & A Movie

Er, make that Movie Of A Dinner. A short look at our lamb dinner on Thursday. The voice you hear is Ken's.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Not Closed [3]

Third in the Open Series:

Hudson, New York (USA)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving !

Today is Thanksgiving in the US and Ken and I are celebrating in our usual way: we will roast a leg of lamb (gigot d'agneau) and serve it with beans (flageolets). I'll make a pumpkin pie from our own garden pumpkins. I'm sure one of us will take pictures to share later.

In honor of the occasion, here's a little autumnal slide show that I did (there is sound). It's a bit corny, but what the heck; enjoy!

Word Of The Week


As usual, this week's word comes from having watched France 2's evening comedy/talk show, "On a tout éssayé," a show were the host and six regulars receive celebrity guests and talk about current events.

One of last evening's guests was Michaël Youn (left), 33, a pretty well known comic in France who became famous doing a morning show on M6 between 2000 and 2003. Since, he's done some wacky songs, several films, and his own theatrical stand up show.

His banter, as you can imagine, is pretty fast and furious and full of slang. Referring to a show-biz colleague last evening, he said, "Je le kif." I've heard variations of the word kif for a while; there's kif, kif-kif, but the the verb kifer (or kiffer) is new to me.

My Petit Robert dictionary defines kif as an Arab word meaning hashish, which makes me realize why it's become part of the French slang vocabulary. Kif-kif means "the same," as in, "It's all the same to me - celui-ci ou celui-là, c'est kif-kif."

The verb, on the other hand, means to like or appreciate. When Youn said, "Je le kif," he was saying about someone that he appreciated his work, that he liked him well.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

While in North Carolina, we came upon many signs. Mostly, they were about what you couldn't do, or warning you of some danger. I guess we need them, but they can be a bit strange out of context!

Darn! I was looking forward to climbing on cannon all week!

They weren't kidding, either. It's a wonder they're still open with all those hazards around.

I found these signs at Fort Macon on Atlantic Beach, a civil war era fort on the coast of North Carolina. Very cool, interesting, and fun to climb around, but steer clear of the cannon and those open drop-offs!

More to come later...

Monday, November 20, 2006


You may remember that while in the USA we visited the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Below are some additional images from that visit.

Above is one of those tunnels you always see advertised at aquariums and you think it's going to be a real neat experience, but it turns out to be disappointing. For one thing, it's a mob scene. Too many people standing still, or shuffling, and talking about things they know nothing about. For another thing, the acrylic tunnel tends to distort your view, so that nothing you see really looks real. It's all kind of Disney-fied, if you know what I mean.

This is a tropical fish tank that my photo doesn't do justice to. The colors were spectacular as were the number and variety of fish in the tank. A very nice exhibit, but also too crowded to really enjoy.

This woman (above) was giving a talk in front of the largest tank in the place, and it was pretty cool - the tank that is. Her talk was probably interesting, too, but I was not really paying attention. This is the other end of the tank that had the tunnel under it. Here you could see the giant whale sharks and the schools of other fish and skates glide by you with little distortion. The room was like a small auditorium with several levels so that it could accommodate a crowd and still deliver great, unobstructed views of the fish. Very nice.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Bird Eats

This is an experiment to see if I can actually upload my own video to YouTube and insert it into my blog. The bird in the video is a great tit and he's eating a suet/seed ball on the balcony of our house. There is a musical sound track so be sure your sound is on, but not too loud if you're at work! Let me know what you think.

I made several versions trying to get the music to end with the video. Tell me how it worked on your system. Thanks!

If this is successful, I will work on more videos for the blog. I don't know if I should have said that or not... :)

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Since we were in Illinois, we've had a craving for pizza. That's because the friends we stayed with, Tom and Harriett, have a nifty new wood-fired pizza oven in their kitchen and made tasty pizzas for us.

I know I can't replicate the real wood-fired result, but still, my electric oven and pizza stones (thanks, Tom, for the idea to use two stones!) can build up enough heat to do a decent job. Here are some of the ingredients:

First, there is the dough. Here, the dough is on its second rise.

Waxy french potatoes were the basic topping of this pie. They were put on top of a white béchamel sauce.

Smokey lardons, or bacon, complement the flavors.

A mix of emmenthal and parmigiano reggiano was sprinkled on top.

Ken took this shot of the raw pie just before the cheese went on.

And, the result. Okay, it's not a great photo, but it was delicious! In fact, we made two and devoured them both with a green salad!

We can't match Tom's pizza, but our pie was pretty good. I would not at all be disappointed if it had been served to me in a pizzeria! Tom sent me some tips on dough making and I already have a few adjustments in mind for my dough technique. I'll keep you posted...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Not Closed

The second in the "Open" series.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Autumn Leaves

Fall has about six weeks left before winter comes in. That's what the calendar says, anyway. But we never know when the weather will turn cold and gloomy. For now, we're enjoying the colors of fall and the relatively mild temperatures. I've been able to work in the yard several days over the past week. That's good, both for me and for the yard.

These are views of the leaves from our living room.

We have been enjoying fires in the wood stove most evenings. After a few hours, the room gets too warm, so we let the fire die out. But it's not really cold outside yet, so I'm thinking that when it does get cold, we'll keep the fire going a bit longer.

The effects of jet lag are very interesting. It's been more than a week now that we've been home, but I'm still not sleeping normally, and I feel very tired in the afternoons. I am getting some yard work done, and being outside and in the sun, even for a short time, feels very nice. But something is still not right.

I don't know if it's the time change, the shorter days, the cooler weather, or what. Maybe it's all of that. I do know that it will all be over after a while, and there is no hurry. That's one of the nice things about being here. There's no hurry.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Word Of The Week


I heard this word in Chicago. I was at the gate, waiting to board my Air France flight for home, and there was an older man who was having trouble communicating with the ground crew.

He really had a problem with the fact that none of the ground crew spoke French. This was an American airport, but still, it was an Air France flight. Somebody should have been able to communicate in French, and yet, nobody seemed able to do so.

At one point he looked at me (I don't know why) and asked, "Vous parlez français?" I replied yes and he launched into his complaint. He was a senior citizen and had phlebitis, and needed to walk periodically. He didn't know if he was allowed to leave the gate area to walk or not, and wanted to ask. His partial English exchange with one of the ground crew, which I overheard, indicated that he was indeed free to walk about, but he didn't understand.

Not to mention that the security ropes and frequent announcements and guards hanging around made people feel uncomfortable, as if they weren't allowed to do anything other than to sit still. Not a good atmosphere.

I told him that it was ok to walk around, and he was happy. Then he told me he how he was scandalized that nobody at the gate could speak French. I agreed with him. For an Air France flight, there should have been someone there who spoke French to deal with francophone customers. It's only right.

He then said that Air France was a fleuron of la technologie française, and that not to have a French speaker at the gate was scandalous. I agreed. But I wasn't exactly sure what a fleuron was, even thought I kind of got it from context.

Come to find out, it's the crown jewel, the finest piece of a collection, or in his context, Air France represented the best of French technology, yet they couldn't have someone there to speak French to their own customers.

Live and learn.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hudson, NY

Early in our USA trip we visited a small town in the Hudson Valley named, aptly enough, Hudson. We were surprised, er, at least, I was surprised. Hudson did not have a good reputation when I was growing up in upstate New York. But lately it has become a place filled with artists and craftspeople, and the main street is now a collection of galleries and restaurants and wine shops. Cool!

Hudson's main street, looking down toward the Hudson River.

While visiting Hudson, we noticed that we were there during an artistic exposition. We visited many galleries and really enjoyed the atmosphere.

The restaurant where we ate lunch: Baba Louie's. Wood fired pizza!

Hudson, as you might think, is on the Hudson River. There is a lighthouse in the river at this point that we saw from the bluff at the end of the main street in town. Here's my view of the lighthouse:

The Hudson/Athens lighthouse as I saw it.

And here is the same lighthouse as seen by a more professional photographer:

I pilfered this shot from the internet.

I noticed before too long that many shops had signs outside that said they were not closed, but open. I started taking pictures of the open signs, the first of which is below.

Open for business! The first in the OPEN series.

I have a small collection of these that I will post over the next couple of weeks, one at a time. It's the Open Series.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pain De Tradition

One of the nice things about being back in France is the bread. We were out on an errand on Saturday morning and stopped at a bakery in the nearby town of Selles for this:

Un pain de tradition is what the bakery called this loaf. It was delicious!

Saturday was a holiday in France (Armistice Day) and our local pharmacy was closed. Jet lag prevented me from thinking clearly about the implications of a holiday on Saturday and I completely spaced on the fact that my prescriptions needed to be refilled that day.

Fortunately, there is customarily one pharmacy open somewhere nearby on Sundays and holidays for emergencies, and the local pharmacies take turns doing this duty - I think they do this all over France, too. By open, I mean that you can call the phone number pasted up on the pharmacy door and someone comes to help you; another fact I forgot in the fog of jet lag.

We found out (by looking in our quarterly village newsletter) that our local pharmacie de garde this Saturday was in Selles-sur-Cher, about 10 miles from us. So we jumped in the car and headed over, telling ourselves we'd make a stop at the grocery and bakery to make a trip of it.

On arrival at the pharmacy, I saw the note on the door and remembered that one is supposed to call in advance of arrival. I have no cell phone, so I thought I was finished, but I noticed the pharmacienne inside on the phone. I knocked on the door and smiled in that meek "please help me" way.

She let me in, and while she finished on the phone - "Non, madame, les pharmacies de garde ne sont pas là pour les ordonnances pour chiens" (No ma'am, we are not open on holidays to fill your dog's prescriptions) - a line began to form behind me. The pharmacienne was obviously not happy to have all of this business on a holiday. And, to top off her mood, she was sniffling and sneezing into her handkerchief, obviously suffering from a cold. A good mood it wasn't.

She looked directly at me and said, "We are also not open on holidays for prescription renewals. We are here for emergencies." Then she went in the back to get my pills. On her return, I explained that I had just returned from the USA, and with jet lag and not being French, I had completely forgotten that November 11 was a holiday and ran out of pills.

Her quick reply was that even the French forget the holiday these days, especially the young kids (why, these kids today!), and that I and everyone in line should make an effort to think about our prescriptions ahead of time. She did smile through much of this discourse, but she was clearly annoyed in that familiar non-threatening way that French people get annoyed.

I got my pills, thanked the pharmacienne profusely, and got the hell out of there. Next time, should I forget to renew, I'll take my chances and miss the meds for a few days (not really a problem since we're only talking about cholesterol reducers)!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Return Of The Tits

I know what you're thinking. But the Great Tit (parus major), also known as la mésange charbonnière in French, is just a bird. Every winter, our local population hangs out feeding on the seeds and suet balls we put out.

Here are a couple of tits enjoying their mid-day meal:

The blue tit is a pretty bird, with a yellow breast and a mostly white face contrasting with blue-gray plumage on its back and on top - it's smaller than the great tit.

A great tit lands on the suet ball. It has a much darker face and a black streak down the center of its breast.

Along with the tits, we get many robins. French robins, that is. They're about the same size as tits with a red/orange breast. They're called rouge-gorges in French. I'll try to get some photos of them as winter approaches.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Another Eiffel Tower

While on our USA trip, I was pleasantly surprised in Alabama by our friend Evelyn who presented me with this little gift:

It's a beautiful little wooden box with a silver tower on top. A nice addition to the collection. Merci, Evelyn!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Eastern Market, Washington, DC

As promised, more pictures from our USA trip. Today: Washington, DC, in honor of the recent elections! While in DC, we visited with our friend, Peter, whom we met in 1981 in Paris. We'll always have Paris...

We met on Saturday at Eastern Market, near where we used to live in DC back in the early 80's. The full fall thing was happening. To wit:

Pumpkins and chrysanthemums were the order of the day at Eastern Market.

Inside the market were many produce stands like this one.

Ken and Peter pose for a photo.

Peter and Ken caught chatting at the top of the Eastern Market Metro station. We were waiting for our friend Eleanor to arrive.

Another friend, Eleanor, met us at Eastern Market and we had a great day sightseeing. Eleanor and Ken were at Duke University together way back when the world was young. Here we are at the new World War II memorial on the Mall:

Me on the left, Eleanor in the middle, and Ken on the right. Although, politically speaking, we're all on the left...

It was great to see Peter and Eleanor again after so many years. We had a great time catching up. With Peter, we ate at a Thai restaurant in Arlington - yum! With Eleanor, we had Asian-Fusion cuisine at Asia Nora in the District - another yum!

Here's a gratuituos shot of the Washington Mall with the Capitol Dome in the background. The flags encircle the Washington Monument (that big white part on the right).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fall Vineyard Views

The dirt road that leads into the vineyards behind our house.

It's fall in the vineyards behind our house. I took a walk today to capture some of it before winter arrives. There seem to be fewer colors this year; maybe I missed them while in the US?

Our house seen from the vineyards. Behind the house, the other side of the Cher River valley.

A red grape leaf.

Some grapes escaped the harvester. Most have dried on the vines and look like raisins at this point, but theses still look like grapes.

Grape leaves falling.

The last of the summer vines.