Thursday, August 26, 2010

What floats my boat...

When you head off overseas, whether for a holiday or to live for a while, you soon find lots of things are different.

After all, if you wanted to see the same old same old, you'd stay at home.

Some different is fantastic (the doctors here make home visits? Awesome!) while other different is not so fantastic. Like the fact that the public loo at Sault is a squat toilet. Have you ever tried getting a 4 year old girl to use a squat toilet? Take lots of wipes.

I want to document the different for future reminiscing so I'm going to have a little 'what floats my boat' feature from time to time. I may also document some of the not-so-great different at some stage, so I don't get too depressed on my return to Australia. Rest assured there will be no photos of trying to get a 4 year old girl to use a squat toilet in Sault. I couldn't give up a hand to hold the camera.

So, what's floated my boat lately? That thing we all think of when we think of France - food. Specifically, cheese.

We'd received a tip-off about a cheese made in our area, so when I saw a specimen at the local charcuterie I brought it home.

I just love the way they wrap everything in this paper.

Here she is - unpasturised goat's milk cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves and tied off with rafia.
Oh yeah.


The cheese is called Banon - the same as the town where this little package of loveliness is made.

Undressing the cheese.

It was at this stage I noticed the cheese was what an uneducated, unFrench nose would call a bit whiffy, but nothing bad enough to turn me off my course. 

Especially when just the act of lifting the cheese clear of the leaves caused this to happen. 
I knew this was going to be good.


I then had to cut the cheese into four portions as we had guests and I'd foolishly decided to share it with them. I'll know better next time.

I had to move quickly as that baby was ripe and would not be contained!


What does one serve with Banon? I have no idea, but I went for fresh figs wrapped in parma ham slices, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Can I just say this was sooooo good. The cheese was mild and creamy, but not heavy in the slightest. I know that my piece disappeared far, far too quickly. It must be said that the figs were also perfect.


Lucky there isn't one in the house right now because after seeing these photos again, it would be toast.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Australia Votes

It's already tomorrow in Australia, and tomorrow is a federal election.

Australian politics have been crazy of late (well, crazy for Australia) and this election will either keep the recently appointed Julia Gillard in place or elect the Coalition.


Given we are overseas we elected to vote by post. Our votes have already been counted in Paris and we wait along with the rest of nation to see what the outcome will be.

Living in France we are a bit out of touch with the minor parties vying for seats. It wasn't until I saw the ballot sheet that I realised how out of touch.


The Australian Sex Party? 

Really? Wow.

We have also missed all the hype over protest votes, but even an uninformed expat can see how juvenile this route is. As Amy from Badskirt has written, if you chose to cast a empty ballot paper in protest of the choices offered you are giving up on the nation. No matter how many blank ballots are received, a party will still be elected - will it be the 'bad' party or the 'even worse' party (media words, not my own)? Your lack of vote will contribute by allowing another vote to go uncontested.  Even if it is a 'better of two evils' vote, cast it.

So to recap: pull on your big girl panties, Australia, and vote.

All grown-ups do it and you want to make yours count.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Oh My Lourdes

The final installment of our summer holiday in the Pyrenees.

Lourdes. We went there. It rained.

The main chapel at Lourdes.


Inside the chapel, well, it was breathtaking.


This artwork looked like paintwork from afar.


But it was actually all mosaic.



This really looks like a painting:


But when you look closer, you can see the mosaic detail. The workmanship is incredible, the detailed piecing and shading of the picture - look at the rays radiating from Jesus' halo. I can only imagine how long these pieces took to finish. 


I think Cate Blanchett was the model for this Mary:


There were plenty of beautiful forms and patterns to inspire quilters.




There is no denying the beauty of the chapel, but downtown Lourdes soon brought this out-of-practice Catholic back to earth.


Many, many shops selling any kind of religious statuette or emblem you could think up.


Can you imagine popping down to St Tropez and engaging in a bit of topless sunbathing on your Virgin Mary beach towel? 


Despite my cynicism I still drank the water at the holy spring. And caressed the stone walls of the grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared to St Bernadette.

Catholicism is hard to kick. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ever had a great idea?

One that gets you really excited?

I had one last night. I could see the finished product in my head, even knew exactly where I'd hang it once it was done and dusted.

I knew what I wanted but I wasn't quite sure how to go about it.

So the pencils came out.

Then I used a few paper models to get my head around it before I tried some prototypes.

Hmmm, no. Too bulky on the main fold lines.

Ahhhhmmm, another no. Why are there seams on the foldy-over parts?


Not even going to bother.

My sad, messy desk this morning.

But I haven't given up. The idea just needs some more marinating time.

Compromise needs to be made between my brain and my actual sewing abilities!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blue Baby - Done

Finished this one off today, a gift for my new nephew.


I followed Rita's recipe faithfully as I really liked the cross-hatching.


My sister requested darker colours on the back, for those not-so-clean baby days.


I'm really looking forward to delivering this in person next month.


Bon weekend!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

St Savin

I'm not sure how this post is going to go - flickr have made some changes to how you can link to your photos (hark, is that the wailing of html dunces around the world?). Given I thought that html was an abbreviation for hotmail, it goes without saying I'm also having some problems. Photo positioning and text spacings are giving me grief, but I will prevail! Or will at least keep trying.

Onto another holiday recap. St Savin was another lovely little town we visited in the Pyrenees.


The day we were there it was really quiet, and we enjoyed a simple lunch on the main street (sadly the restaurant we wanted to eat at was closed on Mondays).


The summer greenery of the Pyrenees made a stunning backdrop for the quaint buildings.


This church had an ajoining abbey, which housed a small museum.


We walked in just when the organist arrived for his practice session on the 15th century organ. Folks must have had bad ears back then because that baby was LOUD.


Behind one of the altars was this gilded piece.


Holding a large piece of rock crystal.


Another smaller altar held a Madonna and chubby baby Jesus statue.


But what I really loved was the patchwork-like stained glass window behind them.


The museum was small but held some interesting items - including a fantastic painting of Mary appearing to Saint Bernadette (which started off the Lourdes phenomenon).  We were amazed at the old set of bellows from the organ displayed in a corner, no case or rope to keep visitors from touching (don't worry, we didn't).  So different to Australia, a young pup of a country, where a relic from the 1500s would be locked away behind glass probably with a cranky-pants guard to keep nose prints off the case. The sense of history in the Old World is amazing - it's everywhere, almost every street and building, so much that locals forget it's even there. But to visitors, it makes (particularly these smaller villages) seem magical.


Thanks, St Savin.

Now to hit post. Preview shows everything looking okay, but Preview, you evil sprite, you have fooled me before. Shame on me if you fool me again.

*ETA: Yay, it worked!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

All Blue Baby Quilt


The quilt top is very close to being finished (but still not ironed, ahem).


Based on Red Pepper Quilts' Pieced Scrap Border Quilt instructions. I only used five different fabrics, and none were scraps, but I'm still pleased with how it's turning out. 


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