Sunday, December 25, 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

As two very excited little people told us this morning, Christmas is nearly here!


I'm just popping in here to send you my best for the season and to show you the (very) few handmade gifts I managed to rustle up this year. 


The first is a summer handbag for a friend from noodlehead's awesome 241 tote pattern. I sat my friend in front of my stash and she chose the Laura Gunn fabrics and linen herself, so I know she'll like it.


My next gift, for a dear 10 year old girl, came from this book. 


I made the pencil roll.


Except mine is filled with marker pens, her drawing implement of choice. 


Because the markers are fatter than pencils they put a little wave in the roll, a fact I didn't realise until after I'd made it.  Were I super dedicated I'd make another and increase the pocket size but I'm low on time and linen. I think I'll get away with it.   


I found this super cute doodling book online to go with it. Have you seen this, it's so cool?


Plenty of inspiration to keep kids occupied for hours:


I hope Pere Noël will bring me one too. 

I also hope all your Christmas preparations are finished and you have nothing to do but sit back with a refreshing beverage and relax. 


It's been a busy year but a wonderful year. Blogging has again been a joy, especially all the virtual friendships I've made (not to mention those of you I've had the pleasure of meeting in real life). 


Thank you so much for all your comments and encouragement to keep recording our adventures in France. I wish you and your families all the best for Christmas and the festive season!

Gros bisous,
Kirsty x x  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Everyday I'm Trufflin' (Rognes Truffle Festival)

Fête de la Truffe is held every year in the lovely Provence town of  Rognes on the Sunday before Christmas.


You absolutely must arrive early. We got there at 9.15am and it was already busy, by 1130am when we left it was bordering on unbearable (as far as trying to negotiate the stalls with a pram). Next year we'll get there at 8.45am.

Even though it was early and very cold, a dozen or so truffle farmers had their little stalls set up and buyers were well into the business of sniffing, squeezing and fondling the black variety of this fungus that grows in the local area (among oak tree roots).

Here's what they look like: (very hard to photograph as truffle buying is apparently a spectator sport, everyone wants to have a sticky beak)


Oh yes, that sign does say 1200 euros a kilogram (around AU$1560 a kilo, or US$700 a pound). There was one lady giving 1300 euros a kilo a try too.

And those little suckers are quite heavy - in fact that's one of the key indicators of a good truffle, that it's heavy for its size. You also want to check it has been brushed clean; dodgy vendors have been known to stuff cracks with mud to increase the truffle's weight. It should also be free of soft spots (hence all the fondling) and have a strong truffle-y odour.


How to describe the truffle's very difficult to put in words. Much like Judge Stewart's explanation of obscenity, it's hard to define the flavour of truffles, but you know it when you taste it. Rich, pungent, earthy - all words that are often used and don't really do this food justice.

This truffle is 55 euros (around $77). Eeek!

Given that truffles were not in our budget this year, we decided to try one of the truffle omelettes on offer. Omelettes are a great vehicle as they let the truffle do all the talking. Similarly other delish ways to enjoy truffles are with mashed potato or tossed through pasta with butter. Mmm.


This nice man cooked us a truffle omelette with baguette and rosé (yes, at 10am, don't judge) for 10 euro each.

It was truly delicious.

But truffles were only one of the things on offer. The market was full of amazing fresh produce and other goods. Honey, olives, oils, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, liqueurs, wine, snails, foie gras, the list goes on...

You could buy your own truffle omelette kit - 6 eggs stored overnight with a small truffle (the eggs absorb the truffle flavour) which is then grated over the omelette:


Of course there was cheese:




Sleighfulls of salami:


More cheese:

Those rounds were at least 60cms (2 ft) across

All sorts of mushrooms:


Herbs and spices:



I've yet to gather enough guts to buy one of the mouldy ones

Check out this charcuterie. Can you see the little dried piggies on the left? How chewy would those ears be?


Now get a load of this.

Still haven't been in France long enough to eat this. More time in country required.

There are a lot more festivities during the day, but we were fairly frazzled after two hours of crowds, omelettes and the flirting tapenade man.  Oh, and the petting zoo:

Did you say foie gras?

Here's a short video (less than 2 mins) of the Festival from the foodie perspective. It's in French but I think it captures the atmosphere perfectly.

Best wishes for the lead up to Christmas: may all your truffles be dense and lightly fondled!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Aix-en-Provence Christmas Markets

Only one week 'til Christmas! Less if you're in Australia as it's already tomorrow there.


We ventured out last weekend to the Christmas markets in Aix-en-Provence.


As always, the lights are just magical.


The kids also got to enjoy a carnival ride or two.


Not to mention the man with some apparatus to make giant bubbles.


Very pretty.


I enjoyed the spiced wine and these lovely light garlands for sale in one of the market stalls.


The santon display was enchanting - it's a big Provençal Christmas tradition to create a little crèche/nativity scene in your home with these guys. They sell the individual mangers, figures and every kind of animal you can think of. Not to mention bridges, water wheels, little ladies selling calissons, even rows of lavender with harvesting workers (not sure how many of those were around when Jesus was born).


The santon scene on the Cours Mirabeau is quite large and enclosed behind perspex (there would be thousands of euros worth of santons in there). I wish I could've shown you a picture of the whole thing, but there were people standing three deep in front of it, so a bit difficult to photograph (there were also a lot of little nose prints on the perspex by this stage).

Turning water wheel complete with real water.

Finding little baby Jesus was a bit like Where's Wally, but I finally located the Holy Family.

Pay no attention to the Lord Jesus being welcomed by folks in 18th century dress.

Once we'd had our fill of gingerbread and pretzels it was time to head home, pausing to check out the nearly full moon.


And marvel at the disco ball. I love disco balls.


What else has been going on this week? The kids have finished school for the calendar year.

I made some progress on Christmas gifts, finishing this covered journal for our lovely babysitter (using Ros from Bloom's great tutorial again).


Then I had to make a matching drawstring bag because Eva's were just so cute.


Drawstring bag pattern can be found here at Jeni's blog In Color Order


The lovely Susan, who blogs at PatchworkNplay sent me some gorgeous Christmas decorations:

They look very French, non? Thank you so much Susan.

I also went out to dinner one night with some girlfriends and ate these awesome profiteroles for dessert. I thought I should tell you.


Today we went to the annual Truffle Festival at Rognes. There were heaps of people, it was cold, I ate lots and that's all.

Just kidding, those pictures will be up next. Hope your last week isn't too hectic!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Oh crap, it's only 18 days 'til Christmas

Can someone please explain to me how it can almost be Christmas again?

I'm sure it was Christmas just the other day.


I do love me some Christmas, so I won't complain too much.


We have already trimmed the tree and put up decorations.

Stripy monkey is also back, I can't imagine our tree without him now.


And heaven help me because the papillotes are back in the supermarkets. I bought a big bag of the cheaper variety to display around the house.

Papillotes are sweets/candies wrapped in shiny wrappers - they're usually chocolate-coated something, but occasionally can be fruit jellies. They also come with a little note (a joke or a fun fact), similar to Christmas crackers.


This vase display lasted 15 mins on the dining table before the 2 yr old found it and gobbled two, right before dinner. Now they live up high in the china cabinet.


The bag had two papillote varieties, a strawberry centre with dark chocolate coating and a caramel praline centre with a milk chocolate coating. Don't ask me how I know this.

I also bought a smaller bag that cost twice as much - these high end papillotes will be part of my kids' teachers' Christmas gifts.


Three varieties of ganash filling with dark chocolate coatings. Too classy for jokes, these ones come with an inspirational saying on their note.


That papillote came that way. Oh, alright, it was me. But it wasn't just gratuitous, random eating - I was conducting quality control on behalf of the teachers.


Now, the eclair which I scarfed about 30 seconds after taking this photo, that was gratuitous, random eating. And it was GOOD.

Hey, I finished my stitching. Now I just need to wrangle it into a hoop for displaying. Will have some close ups once I've made her pretty.


One little brag before I go - I've finished all my Christmas shopping. I did it all on line and it is such a relief to have it done. I don't know what I'm going to do without when I go home.


Good luck with all your preparations for the holidays. Don't forget the chocolate!


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