Monday, June 28, 2010

More bugs

2AAE8E4YZS23 One of the fun things about living in another hemisphere is discovering new things in the garden. 

Not just plants. These caterpillars were one such example (who have greatly disappointed me by skulking off and chrysalising in a place I have yet to find). 

And it's great to investigate these new bugs without fear. In Australia, if you find something unusual in the garden you leave it the hell alone, because chances are it could kill you. The bugs here are so much more sociable. 

Our lavender hedge across the back patio emits a sound much like a World Cup soccer match, it is being harvested by so many bees. There seems to be more bee species 'in the wild' here in France.  I've found three so far.

Your regular honey bee; these are the only ones I see at home in Oz.

Then there's this little guy - bigger, fuzzier, super stripes. 

There's an even bigger and fuzzier one out there too, which sounds like an aircraft carrier, but I've yet to catch him on film. 

While stalking bees I saw another strange flying creature darting around the lavender. 

It was the size of my thumb with wings flapping so fast they blurred. My first thought was hummingbird - but then I saw the antenna. 

Turns out it's a moth.  (A Bee Moth if you're European, a Hummingbird Moth if you're American, a Macroglossum stellatarum if you're a nerd of any nationality.) I'm glad I managed to get a few photos so I could actually see him - he was near impossible to see with the naked eye with all that darting and flapping. 

Interesting and non-venomous; fantastic combination. 

In other news, the new cushion cover is (slowly) taking shape:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Who needs fennel, anyway?

We've inherited a crazy-prolific herb garden in the house we're renting. It's so overgrown I've started having flashbacks to 'Nam whenever I wade in to fetch some rosemary.

The kids love it and often collect various leaves and crush them between their fingers to release the aromas. My oldest boy has even asked for butter and herb sandwiches for lunch, and goes out to pick his own herbs (I send him with a pocket knife and three days' supply of water).

The other day I realised a herb I'd thought was dill gone to seed was in fact a fennel plant. I've always wanted to try cooking fennel - apparently slowly pan-frying the root-bulb caramelises it into a state of awesomeness. That sounded like something else to add to my very long list of what tastes good on buttered baguette.

So I headed out there yesterday to dig up a bulb, but before I could I noticed something already snacking on our fennel.

This guy and about six of his mates. 

He looks like a stack of liquorice all-sorts, which is fitting given fennel's aniseed flavour. 

I spent a few minutes googling and learned two new things:

1. Fennel is a member of the carrot family, and 
2. These little guys are most likely Old World Swallowtail caterpillars.

The kids are hoping they'll catch them turning into butterflies. I'd like to see that myself. But I'm also pretty happy just looking at the caterpillars.  

That is one good lookin' bug. He could be a Cherri House quilt. 

Caramelised fennel on hot buttered baguette will just have to wait. Guess it's herb and butter sandwiches for me too.   

What we're up to...

At the moment we are eating these fresh from the garden:

Enjoying the last of these:

Loving how our lavender has gone from this:

To these sweet-smelling, bee-luring beauties:

And just enjoying the garden in general:

Inside, I'm working on a new cushion cover, which will be pieced together from these log cabin triangles. I've got a whole lot more of these on my sewing table.

I can't look at these fabulous colours from Anna Maria Horner's Good Folks line all together and not hug the next person I see.*

These fabrics are gorgeous and cheerful and exactly what our living room needs.

The idea for the log cabin triangles came from the book Le Log Cabin...Libre by Shizuko Kuroha. The book only comes in French and Japanese, and while my French isn't parfait, it's practically university level compared to my Japanese, so I bought my copy here (a great link as it lets you leaf through a few pages). I love the book - plenty of unusual quilts and inspiration for your own designs. For the non-beginner quilter I think there are enough diagrams and photos to overcome the language barrier, should you ne lis pas français.

But sewing will have to wait for a few days - we have very good friends arriving tomorrow and I can't wait to show them all our favourites (food, wine, markets, villages) in our little corner of Provence. France is twice as fun when you can share it with the folks you love!

*I'll admit this was a bit embarrassing when the man came to pump the septic tank. Well, embarrassing for him. I just don't care because I'm going to have a pretty cushion. 

Friday, June 4, 2010


Aix-en-Provence is a gorgeous city, university town, the birthplace of Cézanne and a fabulous ville to wander around for a day or twenty. Market days are fairly busy, particularly now Spring is serving up seasonally appropriate weather (not that the rain wasn't appreciated), but it's well worth braving the crowds.

One benefit of all the rain - the Cours Mirabeau looks superb. Look right down the end you can see...

The Rotonde fountain. With siamese lions, spitting fish and cupids riding vomitting swans, it doesn't get much better.

Aix (pronounced X, like the letter) has many beautiful old buildings and churches.

Like this one

And this one

And the windows are all so...well, French. Imagine living in these apartments:

Either new...

...or old, they have their charm.

Aix is a town where the Virgin Mary hangs out on street corners. No, I'm not being rude, look:

This Mary keeps an eye on one of the market squares. Poor old baby Jesus looks like he's seen better days.

A more colourful Mary, with the Town Hall clock behind her. Notice baby Jesus is nappy (diaper) free; that Mary was a brave woman.

Even graffiti looks sexier in French:

My (possibly incorrect) language skills translate this to mean 'Let's burn this world to ruins' or 'Let's burn this ruined world'. Lovely either way, really.

Aix is a city of festivals - they hold them regularly for art, music, dance and so on. We were in Aix this particular weekend for a street festival.

We missed the dancing but got to see some singing clowns.

We also caught a half-hour children's performance in the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall). It was a lot of fun (based on Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood) and great for our French skills.

Luckily accordions and pee-pee jokes are funny in any language.

Here's the Hôtel de Ville. There are more sights to see in this building, but that will have to wait for another day.



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