Friday, September 24, 2010

A Dash Across the Pond

Tomorrow I am off to the US for 5 exciting, childless days. I'm visiting my sister and her brand new baby boy (okay, so maybe not completely childless), the one I made this playmat for:


I would love to stay longer, but the mister can't get more time off from work to look after the baby (the older two are in school).

On the flights there and back I am hoping to make considerable advances on my cathedral windows wall hanging.


I trialled fixing the 'window ledges', as I think of them, in three ways:

1. By machine
2. Hand stitching - hand quilting style, the stitch a part of the design, and
3. Hand stitching - tricky, invisible applique-like stitching.

Of course, to be difficult, myself decided that it preferred No. 3, the more time consuming and finicky method of the three. Yay, thanks self. So onward we go.

This is my little carry-on sewing kit; I hope it meets the carry-on luggage requirements (which seem to depend on which security person is reviewing your bag that day).


It's just a spool of thread, a small, non-threatening needle and a plastic letter opener which was a freebie in a local insurance agency's mail-drop. I have also heard that a small pair of nail clippers will make it through, so I have one of those for the home trip, should this be confiscated.


Even if my thread clipping tools get confiscated on both legs of the trip, it won't cut my quilting buzz. Waiting for me at my sister's house is about 20 yards of quilting fabric which I ordered and had sent to her place. Cheap fabric (compared to European prices), super cheap shipping, very happy sewer!

I'm off to pack the barest of suitcases so I have plenty of weight allowance left to carry home my purchases.

Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lac de St Croix

I seem to be continuously running a week behind - these are the photos from the weekend before, when we visited Lac de St Croix.


This is the largest reservoir in France, created as a result of a hydro-electric dam in the 70s.  The water is the most fabulous turquoise colour and not surprisingly a magnet for tourists. (Funny how I already consider myself a local.)


There were plenty of folks swimming and fishing.


The mister took the big kids out on a little paddle-yourself boat, up towards where the river empties into the  reservoir.


There were plenty of parachutists dropping down on the grass next to the lake as well. Lots to look at.

For lunch we headed to the small village of Les Salles sur Verdon.

This was the view from the little resto where we ate, sipping our rosé.


Les Salles sur Verdon has a bit of a sad story. The original village now lies at the bottom of Lac de St Croix, sacrificed to give the good people of France reliable electricity.

As you'd expect, the locals were not happy about the forced move to their new village in January, 1974. Apparently the last two inhabitants had to be removed by the gendarmerie. All the history, the memories, the church (which was dynamited before flooded) and valuable truffle producing land were lost.

At least the cemetery residents were dug up and relocated. Imagine going for a swim and feeling something boney grabbing at your ankle*....

The tourism centre at the heart of the village. I think that is one of the original town's relocated fountains. 

With all the old churches and cathedrals I've been exploring lately, I really noticed how new this one looked.


Loved the brickwork pattern. 

Inside the stained glass was definitely more modern:


But still stunning. I can sort of make out people in these ones, I think.


Late summer sun was shining through the stained glass, making beautiful patterns on the church pews and carpet.


I almost had a little photography tantrum in the church as I just couldn't capture the real beauty of this light. This photo doesn't do it justice, but the dark pews and bright light made for a very difficult picture taking scenario. More training required!

In other news, I stripped the neighbour's fig tree nude, gathering over 2 kgs (4.5 lbs) of fruit. I couldn't stand to see it go to waste, so I made some fig jam.

Well, not really fig jam. I bought the jamsetter and then nearly died when it said I needed to add 2 kgs of sugar! Unbelievable given the recipe called for 1.7 kgs of fruit. I couldn't smother the already sweet little bodies of my figs in such a way, so I just went with figs, lemon zest and lemon juice. With a hint of cinnamon and cloves to spice it up a bit.

It was still nice and thick, but the trade off was having to slow cook it for longer, so a bit more of a stewed fruit consistency (which doesn't bother me at all) and sadly the loss of the beautiful fuchsia/purple colour.


But seriously, 2 kgs of sugar! There's no way. I'm saving those fat cells for cheese.

*Oh Stephen King, because of you I can't take a bath (The Shining), take a shower (It) or swim in a lake (The Raft) without having a heart attack. I wish I could quit you, but I c'aint.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Les Jardins d'Albertas

Two weekends ago now, but I wanted to put up the pictures from our afternoon spent at Les Jardins d'Albertas in Bouc-Bel-Air.

The gardens date back as far as the 1650s, but the majority of works occurred in the late 1700s in preparation for a chateau that was never built. From 1900 the gardens fell into disrepair before Jean d'Albertas, a decendant of the original family, rallied support for government intervention in 1949. For the price of a 3.5 ticket you too can explore the restored gardens.

This long pool is the first structure you meet after the 'welcome fountain' in the parking area.


Then you head through a wrought iron gate, past the stone cool room on the left there.


The main fountain lies in the middle of the grounds.


Eight tritons (mermen) laze about the edges, spurting water out of horns. Perhaps mermaids dig that?


There are four statues above the main fountain: the god Mars, David (of Goliath fame), a larger version of the Borghese Gladiator and Hercules.


Interestingly, Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek hero Heracles. The Romans adopted the original Greek story, making only a few minor changes, and now the world refers to the figure as Hercules. It must annoy the Greeks to no end.

It would be safe to say Hercules was a fairly highly strung fellow. After killing his children (apparently Hera made him do it, but that excuse just wouldn't wash with me) he performed 12 labours to atone for his act. The first labour was to kill the Nemean lion, whose skin was impervious to any weapon. Our boy succeeded by strangling the poor critter and this statue carries the lion's skin.


My kids don't care how many impervious lions you've killed, they're still going to poke your bare bottom with a stick. I'm sorry Herc.


One level up we found a smaller octagonal fountain, lush lawns and ornamental hedges.




Returning home we had a quick tub before heading over to our neighbours' house for goûter (afternoon tea). This was the first time we'd spoken together at length, and it was a great afternoon - we spoke (in French) for three hours! We got to ask lots of questions about the area and learned something very interesting about our property.

The yard behind our neighbours, which is fenced off from us but not from them, actually belongs to our landlord. And on that yard is a big 'ole fig tree, with more figs than our neighbours can eat. They implored me to please jump the fence whenever I wanted and help myself to the figs.


I wiped the drool from my chin and thanked them very much. The very next night I jumped the fence to check it out and took these photos.


If you don't hear back from me within a week, assume I have died from fructose poisoning.


And just because: some cathedral window eye candy - completion is nigh!


Sunday, September 5, 2010


Last weekend we took a quick trip to Lourmarin* for lunch and a bit of a look around.


My heart always speeds up when I see these signs. Brocantes are those bric-a-brac, antiquey type stores that sell gorgeous things you really don't need.


Lucky for the mister, being Sunday afternoon, this one was closed.

But there were a few other places open, pretty enough to warrant a photo.


How great would a table set with this stuff look?


An art atelier (with the French version of Herbie in the background):


A homewares store:

I only realised upon loading this photo to flickr that my son snuck himself into it. Very cheeky (literally).

Not a very interesting church bell, sorry, but I had to put this in to show how amazingly blue the skies seem to be over here. I sure we don't get cobalt skies like this at home. Or have I been away too long?


Spotted while walking back to our car: several fig trees heaving with yet-to-ripen fruit.


We luuuuurve figs. Just as well they were green, I might have sent the mister over the fence to investigate. 


Hmm. On second thoughts, maybe not. 

His figs are more important than those ones. 

*You learn something new every day. By reading my own link I just discovered that Peter Mayle, of A Year in Provence fame, apparently lives in Lourmarin. I dunno though, I didn't see him anywhere.

Friday, September 3, 2010

La Rentree

It's been a big week around these parts due to the kids going back to school - or la rentrée as they call it here in France. 

I can't deny I've been stressing about this for a while. The kids still don't speak French fluently (just enough to survive) and that makes big, crowded places like schools seem daunting. Our eldest has also started at a new school (big primary school boy now) while his sister stayed behind in maternelle (for 3-5 year olds), separated from her beloved big brother. It could have been a hot mess of tears, and not only from the kids.

But I'm happy to report it all seemed to go well. They were both content when I picked them up yesterday afternoon, and last night there were no terrible nightmares unlike when they first attended French school in November. Phew.

So theoretically I should have a lot more time on my hands, with only the baby at home four days a week. Theoretically.

Here he is destroying the contents of the kids' drawing table.


Little booger gave me the biggest smile when I came to investigate.

But who am I to stand between a baby and his sister's glitter pens?


Just kidding, I confiscated those babies as soon as I took this photo. I love glitter as much as the next girl but sparkling babies belong in Breaking Dawn, not in our house.

On the crafting front I am still musing over this problem.


I'm giving something a try, but not sure how it will turn out.


Only one way to know!


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