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Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunday breakfast en France

How was your Sunday breakfast? Bet you didn't have what we had....

Our good mates Julien and Amanda are, amongst other things, pig farmers. The French do fantastic pork products - delicious sausages and charcuterie, lardons come in packets ready to be tossed into the pan with garlic and onion and whipped up into a meal, rillettes of course - the list goes on. However, they categorically do NOT do bacon. And I have to confess I did miss bacon when I lived here.

As luck would have it Amanda is English and she has finally convinced her very French husband Julien to produce bacon. It is still in the trial stage so, poor us, today we had to be bacon guinea pigs.

Julien's pigs live happy, free lives, with a view over a beautiful valley, fresh air and fresh food, a million miles from intensive rearing farm practices that make the press all too frequently.

As it is France, and Sunday, and almost Christmas, there was also, necessarily, red wine...

...and rillettes...

...and more wine...

..and the star, the trial bacon...

...which was absolutely delicious. We had it on crunchy, buttered baguettes.

Anyone else have red wine, rillettes and bacon for breakfast on the very farm where the happy bacon-supplying- pigs were raised? No? Ah, to be in France....


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Foire de truffe in Cuzance

Today we attended a very French event in Cuzance, a pretty little village just over the hill from Souillac. The Foire de Truffe - literally a Truffle Fair - celebrated all thing truffle. I have blogged about truffles in this region before and you can check it out here and here. The smell as we entered the tent today was intoxicating. There really is no smell quite like truffles, and the air was thick with truffles, chocolate, wine, wet wool and wood smoke.

We missed out on booking for the formal sit down meal (won't make the same mistake next year, let me tell you) but thankfully we were well catered for nonetheless.

There was magret de canard and frits for the little people...

...truffle omelette for the more culinary adventurous...

...smoked trout salad for the teenager...

...and champagne for the adults.

You could also buy oak trees inoculated with truffle spores. We'd spent all our cash on champagne and food and couldn't stretch to one of these, alas.

All my favourite local producers were also there, including Marc the flirting cheese man...

...Julien, purveyor of the world's best sausages and pork products....

...and Yves our local snail farmer (husband of Michelle). No photo of Yves, but he is the man directly behind Julien's stall.

At one stage there was a frenzied crush, with cameras snapping away and everyone pushing in to catch a glimpse of arriving people who were clearly very famous.

I pushed forward too, wanting to find out who these famous people were. Perhaps Francois Holland was opening the fair? Or a famous actor was home to the area for Christmas? But no, these were the previous winners of the 'best truffle' medals, and they were announcing the winners for this year. Fantastic!

This man came 3rd, and look at the magnificent cup he was awarded.

This man, I suspect, was awarded a medal just for having the nose most like a truffle...

Absolutely brilliant. What a fabulous day in France.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

And the new adventure is...

Sorry, too much celebratory champagne last night and failed to announce what new adventure actually is.

We have bought a new house! In truth, not so much house as 'fabulous potential' right on the market square here in Souillac.

Last night, one day short of four years to the day since we left Australia and moved to France, I signed for my first French property (The Man owns Our House in Quercy). We have had our eye on this 'new' one for years, and finally managed to penetrate the dense language blanket and negotiate a sale a few months ago. Four stories, one room on each level, and currently sporting just one flight of stairs, the top two levels have walls made from oak beams, poo and straw. There is also a cat skeleton on the second floor. As I said, lots of potential...

In an entirely French moment, everyone involved in the transaction was a 'Marie' - the agent was 'Marie-Josie', the owner 'Marie-France', her two daughters 'Marie-Sophie' and 'Marie-Ange'. Feeling rather left out and considering a late in life name change.

At one stage there was a lengthy discussion about the marital status of one of the daughters, and even though we had already signed every page of the 50 page contract, a minor two word change had to be made to reflect that she was in fact not married but in a de facto relationship. The entire document had to be reprinted and signed again. No one seemed perturbed.

I recall when I helped my sister exchange on her first property in Australia and the lawyer for the other side screamed us down because we asked a question about a special inclusion. She literally shouted at us and said if we wanted to ask questions we should not have said we were ready to exchange. I can only imagine how she would react to the pace and flexibility of French property exchanges. This is just the way it is in France. Exchange of contracts took 2 hours, which was normal and entirely appropriate. Selling and buying property should be a big deal. It is, after all, not just a drive through burger purchase.

By the time we left the Notaire's it was dark and cold. The vendor and I shook hands, the agent and I exchanged bisous. I wandered home through the Christmas light lit streets of Souillac, rugged up in my scarf and warm coat, unable to believe that I am here and stepping out into an adventure which may be the first steps toward changing the course of our lives yet again.

What a great life.

Friday, December 12, 2014

And on to the next adventure

Hello all

Back in France after a very painful 30 hour flight via Singapore, London and Toulouse with a child with an ear infection - fun! Not..

We pulled into Souillac and did not pass Go, did not collect 200 Euro, just straight to the doctor.  Post diagnosis ("If you came tomorrow, c'est possible tragic"), we left the doctors, walked next door to the pharmacist, were recorded in the system as regular visitors (five children and two years here will do that to a publically accessible medical record), and the pharmacist issued us with a huge bag of antibiotics, various pain killers, and some incredible chest infection drug which google tells us is used by cancer patients. Vive la France!

So, welcome home to us.


Friday, January 17, 2014

My new French scarf and La Fleuree de Pastel - a crochet blog

My kids started at a new (for us) Steiner school this year and we could not be happier. We LOVE the engaging conversations we have after school with our happy munchkins about their day, we LOVE the other parents we meet at the school gate, and love love LOVE the amazing teachers. Best decision, EVER. 

What has been a challenge, particularly for two traditionally educated parents, has been the homework. Spelling lists, algebra, pffftttttt .... we can do these in our sleep. Please. I LAUGH in the face of timetables and isosceles triangles. But new for us this year has been a very different kind of homework - crochet. Ummmmm......

So my challenge these past few months has been to learn to crochet. With a little spare time here in France this Christmas, I have turned my hand seriously to this amazing craft. I figure if my left handed 10 year old can do this, I can too. 

I loosely borrowed the design from the fabulous Lucy at Attic24 and her neck warmer scarf pattern, but made it more of an infinity scarf, as well as more appropriately French in colouring. I took inspiration from this gorgeous pin I found when we were renovating. 

I would love for someone to tell me more about it. What is its origin?  Is it just a one off child's construction on a rainy afternoon? Or a traditional pin sold on a national fete day? I love it, regardless. It always makes me smile when I spy it in my earring tray.

Adding to the French inspiration was a purchase of beautiful wool from La Fleuree de Pastel.  This gorgeous store, tucked away in one of the many winding lanes in Toulouse, specialises in products dyed with the French equivalent of indigo. I could have taken the credit card straight into Kenny Loggins territory on the highway to the danger zone here - soft, sumptuous mohair blankets, linen to make any tourist weep with joy and totally impractically but magnetically attractive wax seals for envelopes - all these things and more were there for the begging. I did very well getting out alive with just two balls of deep indigo wool,  a spritz of indigo room fragrance swirling in my wake. 

The temperature has really plummeting here over the past few days. As our Australian mates swelter in plus 40 temperatures, we are finally feeling like winter has arrived. A bit of a frost the other morning and our first really chilly day means I have hooked my last stitch just in time.

I tried to capture a scarf wearing selfie - how do all those clever crocheting bloggers do it? 

And Missy was a most reluctant model, but you get the picture.

Not bad for a beginner if I do say so myself. This year the goal is a big blanket. Off to the markets in the morning in my new scarf. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bonne Fête de l'Epiphanie

The 6th is the Epiphanie, and it is extremely well celebrated here in France with a galette des rois. Guess who won the fève in our house tonight? 
Bonne fête mon cher

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Blanquette de Limoux and second apéro

Apéro is a moment - really, its a pause - a very charming eating and drinking ritual here in France. Enjoyed before the evening meal, it often marks the transition from workday to evening. L'heure de l'apéro in our house happens at about  6 - 6.30pm. As we don't usually eat when we are in France until after 8pm - sometimes much later, something we never do when we are in Australia - l'apéro frequently includes a platter of something tasty to hold off the hunger pains.  At this time of the year it might be foie gras, or something homemade like beetroot and walnut 'pesto' with goats cheese on toasted thinly sliced baguette. Sometimes we slum it and open a bag of chips (that's crisps if you're a pom). Yum.

Naturally, there is also always something to drink. A kir or a pastis, or sometimes a Fenelon. Following on from New Year celebrations (a house crawl through four Aussie expat houses here in Souillac - lots of fun - more about that later) we seem to have lots of bottles of champagne in the fridge, along with other French bubbly products. A French friend recently put us onto Blanquette de Limoux, a cheap but very tasty alternative to champagne. It is at least as delicious as good Australian bubbly and the one we are currently drinking retails for under 6 euros.  It does wonders for the bank account!

If you are a Lord of The Rings fan you will know all about Hobbits and their 'second breakfast'. Well here at Our House in Quercy we have something even better - second apéro.

First, the back story. During our stay The Man has been busy getting the attic ready for a lovely Australian family who have booked Our House in Quercy for the whole summer, but they need the attic to be ready. Hence The Man spends all day working hard plastering and sanding in the attic and I deal with the endless and usually trivial demands of five children. You know the sort of thing. I'm hungry! I'm thirsty! I have no clean clothes! Animal came off his bike when he was riding down a steep hill at a hundred miles an hour wearing no helmet and and isn't breathing! That sort of thing.

So, overwrought, I need to apéro early. When The Man finally downs tools and joins us I must, by necessity, partake in a second apéro. Vive la France!

The Man hates getting his photo taken, I had to be a bit sneaky to get these shots of our very messy attic