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And baby makes 6…

June 14, 2010

 

When I discovered I was pregnant again I admit I had a hard time accepting it.  My only hope was that this baby would finally be that boy – three girls were enough, I thought.  Then the doctor told me I was having another girl and I took it harder than Raphael who was not at all surprised.  Eventually I adjusted to the idea of having four girls.  Life was so busy I didn’t have much time to dwell on it either way.  Then a week ago, I fell in love again when a  tiny new baby was placed on my chest.  I knew in my heart that this baby girl completed my family. 

Four sisters.

Elody Gabrielle Pommier was born on June 5th one day after her older sister’s 3rd birthday.  Raphael said I went into labor on the 4th because I was so anxious about Angeline having to share her birthday with the new baby that it induced contractions.  Elody was born at 3:55 AM just into the 5th.  Our plan is to celebrate two days of birthdays each year – a cake and party on the 4th for Angeline and a second cake and party on the 5th for Elody.  We’ll see how long this lasts.

Elody weighed 3.75 kilos – about 8 pounds.  The doctor told me in my 8th month that she would be a small baby compared to the others.  Turns out he was wrong.  She precedes Auriane in birth weight and Auriane was 10 days late.  Elody measured 52 centimeters.  I packed newborn size clothes for the delivery room and later that morning when I first changed her, I discover the onesie came to her belly.  Raphael was dispatched to raid her dresser for size one month clothes for the rest of our hospital stay. 

 Elody is typically spelled Elodie in French.  We changed it because of the ‘die’ ending.  A few American’s pronounced it Elo(die).  She is an especially easy baby which is good for a fourth.  She sleeps well through most nights and only cries when she’s hungry.  Since this will be my last baby, I spend more time holding her and enjoying her which makes us both content.

The girls have accepted this new addition to the family without complaint.  The biggest disputes are over who gets to hold her first and who held her longer.  Angeline is the exception.  So far she seems okay with Elody but she rarely asks to hold her, and like the dog, gets nervous when Elody cries.  Olivia thinks Elody is cute and sweet just as long as she doesn’t sleep in her room, she ‘already has two sisters in her room.’  Auriane is happy that Elody doesn’t ’embête’ her.  She loves babies but the newness will soon wear off and Elody will grow into the bothersome sister that Angeline has become over the past year and a half. 

Cyclists pass the winery.

Elody had her first sortie upon our return from the hospital – to the end of the Domaine to watch the Critérium du Dauphiné bicycle race.  During the 20 minute wait for the cyclists to pass, she was oohed and ahhed over by the neighbors while she slept peacefully in her stroller.  Then, like a school of fish, the cyclists sped past tilting and swaying around the curves.  They were followed by two motorcycles one with a cameraman balanced on his knees on the back and about 20 cars with replacement bikes on their roofs.  That adventure over, we returned to the house and were off the pick up the girls from school.

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Cherry season

June 3, 2010

I picked my first cherry’s of the season today. I packed the baby in her stroller and we went bumping down the tractor path following Auriane swinging her basket and Olivia way ahead on her bike. We passed the poppies and honeysuckle its sweet fragrance making me hungrier as I neared the trees. The two old ladies were waiting at the end of the lane, their rich black cherries dripping from their branches. It’s my favorite time of year. Maybe because I met Raphael in May and on our second ‘date’ he brought me a Tupperware full of fresh picked cherries (his mom had picked them). Which I devoured on the car ride from the airport to the hotel. They were the best cherries I had ever tasted.    

May and June is cherry season in the south of France. May starts off with trees covered in white blossoms dusted pink. We have many trees on the property so that the season becomes a parade of pink and white flowers with a different variety of cherry popping out every few weeks.    

Cherry clafoutis.

 

Cherry season means its time for the provincial cake, Clafoutis. Basically a simple egg batter with a thick top layer of cherries dripping juice as it cooks. The blackest cherries are best for a Clafoutis, but they are also the best to eat. I layered them in the baking dish, mixed the batter, poured it over then put it in the over. It’s my mother-in-law’s recipe and we were both hovering over the oven for it to finish. The problem was we had a group of French tourists arrive. Over 50 of them! And we had to man the bar in the wine shop. We forgot about the Clafoutis! My first Clafoutis came out slightly burnt.     

My mother-in-law also taught me how to make cherry preserves. Making preserves is not such a big deal. You put the fruit in a pot, pour in the correct amount of sugar and let it simmer for a long time until the fruit becomes liquid. With cherries, however, you have the problem of seeds. As the fruit liquefies, the seeds rise to the top of the pot. I stood in front of the stove for over an hour, or so it seemed, removing cherry pits from the preserves with a fork. But in the end, I suppose it’s worth it each time I spread the sweet jam onto a piece of toasted baguette.   

Obviously I wrote this a year ago when I still had a baby in a stroller.  Funny I’m about to have another baby in a stroller.  This year, the cherry’s are excellent but unfortunately we don’t have any on our trees.  Over one night a few weeks ago, they all disappeared.  This is the second time that our cherry’s have been hijacked.  Some, I’m sure, are eater by birds.  However, the trees are bare even at the very top and they’re rather large given their age.  One must know where they are as they are hidden in the middle of a couple of vineyards at the end of a long path.  The problem is that they are not far from a small road.  It’s disappointing to not be able to take the girls to pick cherry’s this year.  I’ve been buying them regularly because they are still the best I’ve ever tasted but they are not cheap.  Thus no extra buying for other goodies.  We have no reserve for cherry clafoutis or preserves.  Our plan is to buy some more trees and plant them closer to the house.  In fact, we hope to do an orchard of fruit trees on the small field in front of the house.   So far, we have two apricot trees.    

Cherry clafoutis recipe   

You will need one round pie pan buttered.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.   

21 oz or 2 1/2 cups very ripe cherry’s (Really you need enough to fully cover the top of the batter. ) (It’s your choice as to whether you want to de-seed them.)   

1 1/2 oz butter plus a little more to spread on the baking pan   

4 eggs   

7 oz milk   

3/4 cup flour   

1/4 cup sugar   

1 tablespoon vanilla extract   

1 pinch of salt   

Rinse cherry’s.  Melt the butter in a small pan.  Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Add vanilla and eggs one by one mixing continuously.  Next, slowly add the milk while mixing.  Add melted butter.  Pour the mixture into the pie pan then add the cherry’s to the top spreading evenly.    

Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees then lower the temperature to 350 and cook another 20 minutes.  Dust finished cake with powdered sugar and serve at room temperature or chilled.

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Waiting for baby…

May 28, 2010

I realize I’ve been slacking on my writing these past few weeks.  As I near the end of this pregnancy, only a week left to go, along with all the other wonderful things that occur in the final month – difficulty sleeping, back aches, moodiness, I find it difficult to focus on any one thing at a time including writing.  While each day brings new things to write about, I can’t seem to concentrate long enough to form a proper post and those that I have published are not at the standard at which I would like them to be. 

I wish I could say I’ve been distracted with daydreaming about the baby and her arrival.  We don’t even have a name picked out (We’re taking suggestions.).  Until this past week, my distractions have been due to preparing the bed & breakfast for the season.  One would think all the work of packing up and moving boxes of books and toys as well as ‘helping’ Raphael move furniture would make the baby come sooner.  The first two were both over two weeks late and I’m beginning to wonder about this one. 

This also, along with the harvest month, happens to be Raphael’s busiest season in the fields.  Between early morning and late night treatments, I am doing most of the care for the three kids alone.  And given my energy level and mood, I’m on the verge of feeding them bowls of cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They’ll be thrilled since they take after their American genes in this case and love cereal.  The only problem is the amount of sugar.  Their excessive energy levels might put me over the edge.

So, for the next week, if baby doesn’t come, I’ll be republishing posts from my former blog.  And I’m making a list of everything I want to write about to make it up to you when my energy is low only due to sleepless nights and not due to a second human being sucking it all up from the inside.

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Rino the hampster…

May 25, 2010

Rino in the cat carrier.

 

Yesterday, instead of spending the afternoon with me, Olivia mentioned that she wanted to go shopping with her Mamie.  She has been asking for a cochon d’inde, or guinea pig,  for two years now, ever since we went camping with some friends and they brought their guinea pig along in his cage.  She knew who would be more easily talked into this purchase.  Olivia didn’t come home with a guinea pig, however, but a tiny grey hamster.  Of all the pets she could choose from, she chose the one animal closest to a rodent.  Skittering little thing is cute but gives me shivers.  She christened him Rino (and spelled it for me too). 

She purchased Rino on sale with her own money earned from helping Papa during a market last Saturday.  She just lost a tooth this morning and now has plans to save up to purchase a toy for Rino.   A second tooth is loose and she asked me to pull it out for her.  There is no rush, I said.  Rino is still adjusting to his new home, in the cat transporter which last summer was home to an  injured wild falcon that Raphael found in the fields.  How to traumatize the poor hamster with smells of its predators.  

Olivia and Rino.

 

 Despite my phobia of rodents, I had hamsters as a child.  I used to let it crawl up my sleeve.  I even had a hamster ball.  (I hesitate to let her get one.  I have visions of her forgetting Rino in the ball and me finding it under her bed a week later or it going bumpidy bump down the stairs.)   

I’m not sure how long Rino will last in our household.  She’s dropped him on the kitchen floor at least five times.  He survived but thankfully Kitty was not present.  We’ve all warned her about the danger the cat poses.  Kitty hasn’t seemed to have noticed the new addition yet.  Then, he does tend to stay away from the cat carrier which usually means a visit to the vet.  The death of my first hamster, which was named Baby, was so traumatising I remember crying over it in music class.  He had eaten a piece of plastic bag that was next to his cage.  I found him that morning hard as a rock.  I had others after, but I never quite bonded with them in the same way.

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Liqueur de violette recipe…

May 20, 2010

let liquor recipeMy jackpot of wild violets in the village of Clansayes.

 

Jenn of The Adventures of Kap and Fia requested my violet liquor recipe, the one I’m not sure I’ll ever make.   I meant to include it in the post so here it is…  

500 grams (about 1 pound and 1.6 oz) of strongly scented violet petals 

300 grams (10.5 oz) of sugar 

1 litre fruit alcohol 40 degrees (easily found in France, I’m not sure exactly what it is or where to find it outside of France.  I imagine it is a 40 percent grain alcohol.) 

-Rince the petals and let them dry on a clean towel 

-Place them in a jar (rather large) alternating one layer of petals with a layer of sugar.  Close the jar and let it sit one week in a hidden place like a cupboard. 

-Pour the alcohol on the flowers, mix and reclose the jar.  Let macerate for 10 days. 

-Filter and pour into a bottle. 

This recipe is translated exactly from the French version. 

Let me know how it turns out.  Enjoy!

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Poppy princesses…

May 19, 2010

 

From my perch on the stone wall, I watch the girls pick poppy’s with their Mamie.  The girls are not looking, however, for the open flowers.  They are on the hunt for the unopened bud.  Mamie has taught them how to make poppy princesses and they are determined to make a whole kingdom of these delicate ladies. 

This is how it’s done:  pick the unopened poppy buds.  They are oblong in shape and have a fuzzy, rough texture.  You snip them below the bud leaving a small part of the stem attached.  Then you open the nodule to reveal the red petals all crinkled and delicate like a lady’s crinoline dress.  The head is made from the poppy’s center after it has lost it’s petals or as the girls prefer- you pick a poppy and de-petal it.  The center is then stuck on the bit of stem  to form the head.   

The poppy’s, or Coquelicot, line the fields and the sides of most roads each spring, sprouting up like the dandelions in the backyards of Pittsburgh.  This year, our fields are barer than usual maybe due to the cold and rain of the last few weeks.  It’s only been a day or so since I noticed fields of poppy’s while driving. 

This delicate little flower that I’ve always admired is the symbol of both sleep and death;  sleep because of the opium extracted from it and death because of its blood red color.   The corn poppy is the most common in France and is considered a badge of war as it is most abundant in fields of distressed soil.  It was the only plant life to grow in the shell shocked northern fields during World War I.  I picked my first French Poppy in front of Mt. St. Michel 18 years ago on my first visit to France and I still have it pressed between the pages of the photo album.

A ‘discussion’ is taking place near the ‘castle’ or swing set as to which poppy princess should become the queen.  The search is on as it has been decided that the queen should be made from the rare pink poppy.  This ought to keep them busy for the next hour.

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Crazy old ads…

May 18, 2010

Olivia got caught sneaking out of the attic again.  This time she thought she’d be sly and come down the rickety steps to the wine cellar which might have been a good idea seeing as how it was early Saturday morning.  Except she didn’t count on her Papa working early that day, until, that is, she ran into his chest as she opened the door directly facing the sun. 

This time she was sneaking out with her ‘treasure’, 100+ year old town newspapers.  After the standard lecture about the dangers of the grenier and how she mustn’t touch things that don’t belong to her, this time explaining about the age, “This one is older than Papi,” Raphael said.  “Papi’s papa was only 10 year’s old.” of the items she was swiping, Raphael and I had a look at the papers.  

The oldest is dated August 26, 1894.  Usually sold for 5 centimes an issue, this one, issue #9 of Le Riverain Agricole, cost a whopping 10 centimes because of the headline, a special competition, Concours Agricole Artistique et Industriel.   

I opened to the inside spread and given the name of the paper, expected to see articles on harvesting, treating various plants, animals for sale – anything and everything to do with agriculture.  Hélas no.  These are some of the headlines from inside:  Cronique Littéraire – Les Livres Sensuels.  I read most of this articles which talks about writers (they use the word artists) who put their characters in positions of ‘fièvres lacives et grisantes’, lascivious and exhilarating fevers.  “The women are disheveled and crazy with passion,” the articles author wrote.  The men, well, the word translates to minced meat pie and then the author gives an example of the male characters in a popular novel of the time.  I guess these books were not taboo in the late 1800’s in France since the article seems to praise them and goes on to suggest titles and authors to read.  A surprising article for an agriculture newspaper.

Another article was titled “Aux Etrangère“, the strangers, and went on to explain all the wonderful things to do and see in this ‘charming city,’ but with a poetry only the French could write, “Coquettement parée comme une femme…” Adorned coquettishly like a women…” was one description of the city.  The paper also included a small ditty to sing entitled, “You will love me a little.” 

The back page is devoted to advertisements.  Some of the names we recognized;  a current winemaker, who’s family, according to this ad, once fabricated wine filters.  There is a nice sized ad for the town public baths.  “Open all day from 5 am to 7 pm.  For 60 centimes, one can take an ordinary bath without towel and for 5 francs one can have a card for 10 baths.”  And let’s not forget the ad more the ‘marvellous hair lotion,’ with a 100,000 franc offer to the person who could prove the ineffectiveness of this lotion! 

The next two papers Olivia had were from 1946 and 1949 by which time the Riverain Agricole had become just the Riverain and cost 6 francs.  By 1949, the ads and articles resembled a local paper of today announcing a concours de boules, the local soccer scores, and, of course, the possibility to purchase vegetables which heal, price 90 francs, although they didn’t say what the vegetables were nor what they healed.