Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Because A Nasty Head Cold Just Isn't Enough...

So, I'm still living with the exploding head thing I've had going on for days. But, that misery and the sleepless nights it brings with it apparently aren't enough for me. We've decided to add on a few things for extra fun.

Lice, anyone? Sure, we'll take 'em. And, don't just leave them for Lambchop #1 this time. Give me a few, too. I don't remember if I mentioned my daughter brought home her very first set of head parasites a few weeks ago. Someone from school apparently wanted to share with her. Sweet, right? So, I got rid of them - or so I thought. It's been a little while, and I thought the amount of time they say it takes for the eggs to hatch had passed. Looks like I was wrong in my calculations, though. Yesterday, while combing her hair, I found a few eggs. A second, third and fourth pass through her hair with a special lice comb revealed some live critters and a few more eggs. Not too many, though, which was a relief. I did the customary check of the family and found everyone to be lice-free, except for me. I only had a few eggs and lice, but this means changing all the beds and vacuuming everything unexpectedly, not to mention the fun of frequent head combings.

So, lice on top of a head cold... is that enough? Can we leave her alone yet? Perhaps we should really pile it on thick with a gastrointestinal virus. What do you say? That's been going around. It's doable. Yeah, I had a grumpy tummy last night. It wasn't too bad, and I'm hoping it'll stay that way, but I think I've had my fair share, now. Don't you.

And, lately, I've noticed that the lives of those around me are so full of bad news (things that make my little health problems seem like nothing). A week or two ago, my ex informed me that his father has prostate cancer. This is one of the kindest, gentlest men you could ever hope to know, and it makes me so sad for him and their family. To make matters worse, you'd also be hard-pressed to find a person more fearful of medical intervention. So, I think frequently of them and their troubles, hoping he can beat both the fear and the cancer.

Then, a few days ago my uncle passed away. I've hesitated to mention it here, because I have such mixed feelings about it. He was a life-time alcoholic. Circumstances in his youth led him to a life of drinking he was never able to stop. It was a sad waste of a promising life, because, by all accounts, he was an intelligent man who was very skilled with his hands. About his personality, I can say nothing, because I did not know him well. I'm not sure anyone did after the changes alcohol comsumption made to him. At the same time, though, a family member has been lost, and he will be mourned. We are all just very relieved that he went in a painless, quiet manner, since there are so many things a severely abused body can do to itself. He did not suffer in death, and for that we are all thankful. One can only assume that this has put an end to a life of hurt and troubles, and for him I don't think that is a bad thing.

Last night, after having processed the news of my uncle's recent death, we heard that one of my husband's closest friends from his youth is having troubles with his girlfriend. It's not the sort of troubles anyone would ever think of, and you certainly wouldn't wish them on anyone. Apparently, she had experienced some amount of loss of balance. After what I can only assume was a battery of tests, they concluded she had a brain tumor that needed to be removed. She underwent the surgery a month ago, and upon awakening had lost many of the functions we take for granted in our lives. She could no longer even speak. I do not know her well, but I have met her several times. She seemed like a nice enough person, but even a not-so-nice one should never have to go through such an ordeal. I cannot imagine the fear that she would have if she were fully aware of her surroundings but unable to move or communicate. It would have to be one of life's worst possible nightmares. So, I think of them, too. We've tried to get news, since it's possible some changes have occurred in the month since her surgery, but since we only learned of it yesterday, we are still waiting. I can only hope things have improved since.

All of these tragedies in the lives of people I know have really made me contemplative lately. I'm sure the hormones that accompany pregnancy have amplified my reaction, to some extent. I've realized, though, that the life I live now is exactly where I want it to be. I see people around me who work hard for money that is used to better their lifestyle. They own large homes, nice cars, maybe even a second home and take great vacations. That, of course, is their choice, but they have so little time to spend with their children and other loved ones. I fear that someday, they will regret this. Watching it all makes me happy that I have chosen a different route.

Years ago, despite having little idea of exactly what I wanted to do with my life, I would have told you I wanted a challenging, fulfilling career. You may have heard me laugh had you told me I would later throw in the towel partway through a PhD dissertation in favor of dedicating myself fully to a life at home with my family. Not so, now. I won't deny there are stressful moments. There may even be a few when I doubt my sanity. Overall, though, staying home with my children and husband and being available to them is the most fulfilling career I could have imagined. I am happy to have realized this.

I think so many women stay home with their children out of a sense of duty. This turns them into martyrs, in a sense, and later, there is always some amount of regret. I just want to be here to watch them grow and learn. I want to be a part of the process that takes them to the people the will become. Ultimately, so much of that lies in their own hands, but watching the children of those around me, I've realized that they seem to do it best with a parent always close by for comfort and occasional guidance. It has become so important to me, lately, to be here for that. So, we are most likely never going to be wealthy, but it isn't even a sacrifice to me if our home is a happy one. Ultimately, for me it will have been more fulfilling than any job outside the home. I can find plenty of ways to occupy myself so that I don't get lost in there somewhere. So, I don't fear becoming one of those moms who lives only through her children. I'm just so fascinated by them that I don't want to miss a thing. And, I'm happy to have realized this so soon.

These are my thoughts these days. I apologize if you were hoping for that knitting picture. I haven't had the chance to charge the camera batteries. You'll have to come back for that some other day. I'm sure I'll have happier thoughts for you then, too. Until then, cherish those that are dear to you, whether they be children, parents, siblings, friends or a significant other. They are what make life worth living. Spending time with them is the way to live it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Well, I Had A Picture For You...

This supposedly being a knitting blog and all, I decided to actually show some pictures of real knitting today. I was, however, thwarted by my camera. It appears that it was low on batteries when I took the shot, and by the time it was halfway done loading to my computer, it was a gonner. So, we'll have to charge the batteries and try this again some time soon. But, just know that I had good intentions (yeah, don't tell me about the paving of the road to hell, please).

Today is catch-up day. Maybe I should call it ketchup day to make it sound more fun. You see, yesterday, I pretty much did nothing aside from making some chicken soup to soothe my cold/flu/whatever-it-is. I'm happy I did all of that nothing, because I am feeling somewhat better today. What all that laziness does mean, though, is that I'm stuck catching up on yesterday's chores today. That's not too bad, but it's a good way to start getting behind (which I'm already really good at). I still don't feel much like messing with the dishes, but I ran a load in the dishwasher, and I suppose I can convince myself to put them away to make room for more, at least.

And, since I've mentioned photos and still had none of knitting to show, I'll substitute with some cute ones from our vacation last month. Besides, I've been meaning to post some of our little ones, so that my parents don't start thinking I've sold them to the black market or some circus or other. Don't worry, Mom and Dad, we're still keeping them around (even feed and bathe them from time to time).

Yes, the snow was that deep.

And, yes, they had the time of their lives in it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Evil Mother

Last week, I took care of my husband's nephew. He was the ideal guest in most ways. He listened to me better than my own children, cleaned his plates and slept amazingly well on our couch. Aside from forcing me to speak French a lot more than I'm used to at home (which can be very tiring, in case you didn't know this), though, he also came fully equipped with a very runny nose. Apparently, he was on the healing end of a flu or some such virus. Don't know about you, but I'm not too into wiping other people's noses, myself. When it's you're own children, it's okay, but someone else's doesn't quite seem right. Anyway, aside from the gross-out factor, it seems to have taken a toll on me. Specifically, it has turned me into Evil Mother (Don't worry, I will spare you the photos. It's not a pretty sight.). I know you're wondering how wiping someone else's nose could really be that bad, especially since he's no longer staying with us. Well, I'll tell you. I've turned into to Evil Mother because of the flu that he was so generous as to pass on to me.

Remember I mentioned that my husband was spending several days at a wine show? I may not have mentioned that these things are all-day events. What does this mean for me? It means that I get the kids all to myself from sun-up to way past sun-down. Normally, this can be a bit stressful when it's several days in a row, but add a flu to it, and this is how you get Evil Mother. She's not like the normal Mean Mommy that we see from time to time. She doesn't just have the normal yell. She's got the scratchy-voiced yell that freaks out the children. Then, of course, the exhaustion caused by her near-exploding head being too much for her, she bursts into tears, further scaring her offspring. That's pretty much how we spent our evening yesterday. First I had the 2-year-old telling me I was scary. Then, I had the four-year-old (apparently much more mature than her mother) soothing me and coaxing me back to the dinner table with them. Oh, yeah. We had ourselves a full evening last night.

The upshot to all this, though, is that today, despite the fact that my head is inexplicably even fuller-feeling than yesterday, and I kept the kids cramped up inside all day, things went smoother. I only had to mention the Evil Mother that popped up yesterday, and things calmed down. Don't think I'm proud of that - threatening my children with a rerun of yesterday's fit where we somehow switched rolls, and I was the child while they were much more grown-up than I. Okay, I wasn't really lording it over them today. It was more like I was just warning/reminding them of what could happen, since I'm so low on patience in this state.

So, my advice to you is this: Don't let this happen to you. Get your flu shots before you, too, turn into Evil Mother(/Sister/Wife/Girlfriend/Daughter...).

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Things We Do For Love...

Remember that little ditty? Well, I was singing it to myself around 11 pm last night. I was exhausted and all ready to go to bed when my husband walked into the house. He had spent his evening preparing for the South of France's largest wine show. It starts today, and he's a notorious procrastinator. He came in searching for some last minute items he would need. One of them was a set of white tablecloths. Well, they're almost white, anyway. I've vowed to remedy that situation for him, if he brings at least one back to me tonight (he'll get a fresh white one in return). So, I, being the "organized one" around here... Don't laugh. I actually knew where the tablecloths were (as well as the photo paper he wanted). Anyway, I whipped out the whitish linens in question, and realized they could use a bit of ironing. Now, something you must know about me is that I hate ironing. Absolutely despise it. I do own an ironing board and iron, but their main purpose tends to be in preparation for sewing. They almost never get used on clothing. I guess I just don't care enough about our collective appearance get it all out and use it. So, you know I love this man, when he comes in at an ungodly hour, when I'm already exhausted, and I offer to iron for him. And, tablecloths are big. It's not like ironing underwear (which I'd never do in the first place, but you get the point). I even pressed his shirt and pants. What a loving wife, indeed.

As a little revenge (in advance), I played a little practical joke on him. It wasn't really on purpose, but the results sure were funny. Yesterday morning, as per his usual routine, he threw the hot water kettle on to boil and served himself some instant chicory coffee (breakfast of champions here in France and maybe for some Cajuns in the southern US). He, then, proceeded to pour in the milk, which instantly curdled. Confused (it was early, you know), he got out another bottle of milk (they sell those long-life ultrahigh temperature bottles that don't need refrigation, here, so we've got a good stock of them) and made himself a new coffee. Pour in the milk. Curdle. Weird. So, he changes cans of coffee and makes himself a third cup. The kettle is about empty now. So, when he pours its contents into his coffee bowl (it's a French thing to drink coffee in a bowl), he sees chunks of white calcium deposit floating in his bowl. This is about the time I stroll on in to sit with him. What does he say to me? "Hey, the next time you put vinegar in the hot water kettle to remove the calcium deposits, could you let me in on it? I'm on my third bowl of coffee" Oops. Yeah, I did that. We have really hard water, and it's necessary to do these things from time to time. I meant to mention it to him, but he hasn't been home much lately, and it slipped my mind.

I really wish I had set up a camera for that one, though. It would have been very entertaining, even if it was a complete accident.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Our New Home (Or, Why We Can't Move In Yet)

My parents and some others keep telling us we should just move in to our new home, despite the fact that it is still unfinished. The idea behind their comments is that we can always work bit by bit while living there. I know these well-intentioned friends and family members are only concerned about our comfort, and given the fact that we currently live in a prefab used to house refugees (thirty-some-odd years ago!), it makes sense to want to move as quickly as possible.

I must, however, set these people straight. We may not live in the lap of luxury, but there is a certain amount of comfort in the tiny box we currently call home. There is hot, running water, a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer (essential when you've got small kids, in my mind), electricity (even if it does overload and shut off at least once day, because it can't handle the heaters plus other appliances). We may all live crammed in one bedroom, but afterall, that's only for sleeping, and we can make due here. Now, to show you why we would rather stay here, despite the beauty and size of the new house, I have a little photo montage prepared for you. I won't embarrass myself with shots of the place we live in now, but I will show you why we can't move into the new one yet.

First, we've got the stairs that lead to the upstairs bedrooms. These sturdy iron stairs were handmade by my iron-working father-in-law. I think he's doing a wonderful job... but, do notice there's a very important section missing. You see those large holes that would be ideal for small children to fall through? Yeah, it'd be best to cover those before moving in (and, of course, that's on the list of stuff to get done).

Next, we move on to another set of stairs. This one leads from the kitchen up to the mezzanine that overhangs the livingroom. The original idea was for this space to become a tv room, but with the coming of a new child, this will most likely end up a parents' bedroom. No complaints on that from me. The view is amazing from here. Note the holes again, though. Certainly not toddler friendly.

Now that we've seen some areas that are certainly off-limits to the kids (you know, their bedrooms), let's move along to the bathroom. Here, you see a picture of the sink area. Despite the fact that the sink is sitting in its little hole, it's otherwise totally uninstalled. There is no running water connected here. The mirror is missing (and I do like to see myself when I'm getting ready in the morning), and the countertop is just rough concrete for now. Also, what you don't see is the fact that the wood floors are still not installed. Obviously, it lacks some of the creature comforts one would want in a new bathroom.

This last shot of the day is one of the bathtub. Hard to tell that's what it is, but I swear, it's the tub. It's covered by cardboard at the moment to protect it a bit. It and the area surrounding it are pretty much in the same state as the sink, though. Not exactly a good place to clean up after a day's work or play. I thought I had a few photos of the kitchen to show, as well, but apparently not. It's large and will be lovely, but it looks remarkably like the bathroom for now. Certainly not a place you want to prepare your daily meals.

So, despite the fact that we now have electricity in the new place, it's far from comfortable and certainly no place to raise three children. So, we patiently wait for the funds necessary to finish the job. I'll be doing a little bake sale to raise money. It's either that or selling my body, and who wants a pregnant lady (Actually, don't answer that. I'm sure a google search would prove me wrong.)? I'm only joking. No bake sale or selling of my soul or body. We're just going to have to wait around a bit till some more wine sells, I guess. Until that time, though, we'll stay put in the little cardboard box we call home, and I will continue to organize and clean it to make it more liveable (and easier to eventually move out of).

Some time soon, I will share a picture of our newly-installed wood-burning stove. Its state-of-the-art technology (some kind of special combustion system I couldn't begin to explain) should keep us warmm through the winters. That'll have to wait till I feel like uploading that photo from our camera. Until that time, I hope you (Mom and Dad) now understand why it's not such a good idea to move right in and work as money comes along. We're far more comfortable here in the meantime, even if in this case the word comfort is used very loosely (afterall, comfort is relative, you know).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Good To the Last Bite...

I'm loving this sourdough stuff. I searched the net last night for sourdough recipes and came up with many. The one that most caught my eye, though, was the sourdough chocolate cake. I haven't particularly been craving chocolate, but my husband loves it, and what better way to celebrate Valetine's Day than by serving him up a delicious sourdough chocolate cake? It truly is delicious. The sourdough starter lends a wonderful moistness to every bite (which also clings lovingly to your teeth).

If I weren't so lazy after eating some, I might even share a picture with you. Maybe tomorrow. For now, I'm too tired.

Ooh, and a fun little stir-fry recipe for you...

Chop firm tofu into smallish cubes. Chop a variety of veggies for stir-fry (I had leeks, cabbage and sugar snap peas on hand but this would work with whatever you like).

Combine the juice of one lemon (or even just a few drops with some other citrus - I used the 1/4 of grapefruit juice that was left in the bottle tonight) with chopped garlic, chopped fresh ginger, a small teaspoon of honey and enough soy sauce to cover chopped tofu. Let tofu marinate 5 minutes.

Heat flavorless veggie oil (safflower or sunflower work well) over high heat. Remove tofu from marinade with slotted spoon. Stir-fry in oil till browned. Add veggies and continue to stir-fry 1 minute. Add marinade. Continue to stir-fry to desired doneness (probably 5-10 minutes). Serve with sticky rice (I made brown rice, which I prefer).

Very yummy and quick last minute meal.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Wonders of Sourdough

(I'm going to pretend that it hasn't been almost a week since I last posted. We'll just gloss right over that...)

We all know I like to make my own bread. I've been attempting it from time to time since my late teens. It didn't become a regular habit, though, until the last couple of years. And, in the past year, we have come to eat almost entirely homemade bread (in fact, now when my mother-in-law brings us bakery bread from town, I find it so bland that I often use it for bread pudding - its ideal use). In improving my bread baking skills, I have tried all sorts of recipes from many sources. One of my favorite bread books, though, is The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Reinhart. It's a great book. There are some wonderful recipes in it, and if you've gotten a good grasp of the basics of bread baking, it's a great source of information to better your technique. In it is a very in depth discussion/recipe section on sourdough breads and the starter needed to make them.

I made some starter months ago, and because there is much thrown away in the process of making this starter, and I just can't throw away food that easily, I froze large amounts of it. I just assumed that one day, it would come in handy. In fact, I have killed my previous starters (because you have to actually feed these things like children to keep them alive) out of laziness and lack of know-how. Well, I recently pulled a batch out of the freezer. I made tons of bread from it all in one day, in an attempt to not waste any. It worked, and we had several varieties of bread to munch on and freeze for later. Since then, I've been faithful about keeping my starter alive and have found, to my utter delight, that there are more things that just bread that you can make with a sourdough starter.

This topic wasn't covered in Reinhart's book, but I recently order a book on "country living" (nothing like the Country Living magazine - we're talking info about how to live off the land out in the country). The book has a great wealth of information, and scattered throughout, there are recipes. There are several pages dedicated to sourdough. In them, I found several yeast bread recipes, just as I expected. There were also some little surprises. Things like sourdough pancakes, sourdough soda bread, sourdough apple sauce cake and sourdough spiced oatmeal cookies. We had the pancakes for breakfast the other morning, and they were really quite delicious. Intrigued by the cookie recipe, I slightly modified it for no sugar (since I like to watch my diet when pregnant - only want the good stuff for the baby) - I pureed dates with grape juice, in case you're wondering how to get the sweet flavor without all that sugar - and baked some up. Delish. Seriously. My mother was skeptical about the cookies, but I figure that the idea behind adding the sourdough starter is about the equivalent of adding buttermilk to a recipe, and with very tasty results (just ask my kids - Lambchop #2 is currently throwing a huge fit about the fact that I set a limit at two).

So, if you make your own sourdough starter for bread baking, you may want to search around for other uses for it. The great thing about baking cookies and pancakes with the starter (aside from the yumminess part) is that I have no need to throw any starter away when I feed mine (you have to remove a certain amount of the starter before adding in more flour and water to refresh the thing).

Oh, and in case anyone has noticed that I've gone a REALLY long time without mentioning knitting on this supposed knitting blog, it's only because I can't seem to sit still long enough to work on anything. I have gotten a little way through a baby sweater I'm making for Lambchop #3 (yeah, I figure that's what we'll name the baby), but other than that... nothing.

We (the fetus and I) are making great progress on organizing/cleaning the house, though. The kitchen is almost entirely in a bizarre state that I believe is referred to as organized. I've got a few final touches still left, but it's really almost there. We've also been working on the bathroom/laundry room a bit, too. When the kitchen's done, we'll start there in earnest and make better progress. So, my advice to anyone wanting to organize their life is this: 1) go read Organizing from the Inside Out 2) after allowing the details of the book to settle in, get pregnant. That's pretty much my secret, and it's amazingly effective.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Life On the Inside

In my last post, I showed you the quaint little cabin ("gîte" in French) that we stayed in on our recent vacation. For those of you not aware of this, gîtes are available for rent all over the country. The types of amenities, the architecture, as well as the type of location can vary greatly, but they're a wonderful way to get away from home for vacation while still having a slight sense of feeling at home. They may not all have a washing machine and dishwasher (as this one did), but they are all equipped with little kitchens with pots and pans, and at least a place to sleep and eat to give you a sense of feeling at home. You don't get the daily maid service you'd have in a hotel room (and you have to leave the place clean), but you do have a certain amount of independence and private comfort you may not get in a hotel. Another perk is that these cabins are often in off-the-beaten-path kinds of places.

So, let's take a little tour, shall we? First off, we have a picture of the hearth. As I mentioned earlier, this was a poor farmer's house. I'm sure you've seen in period films that the lady of the home was often to be found at the hearth, tending to a large pot that sat over an open flame. What you don't see in those movies is the enormous hole in the ceiling above this fire to allow the smoke to escape. Not a bad idea, really. That's the kind of thing you want to let out of the house. In renovating the cabin, the owners were careful to maintain the beauty of the original hearth, though they did plug the hole. Another smart idea, really, considering we're now in the age of space heaters, heating coils in the floor and wood-burning stoves.

This second shot is a little closer look at what's behind the hearth. I just about fell over with excitement when I saw this. You know I love to make my own bread. We've talked about that here before. Well, right here, in the very cabin we stayed in, was a real, live (well, not really, because it can't be used anymore with that hole plugged) bread oven. Back in the day, they would have stoked this baby with a good fire and baked their breads in there. Beautiful, and certainly something I aspire to own someday (though on a smaller scale and outdoors).

Now, in this next photo, we've turned in the direction of the stairs (which lead up to the bedrooms, which would have once been a loft probably used to hold hay). Just at the entrance to the staircase is a funny little alcove that is currently used as a knick-knack spot (and this cabin was full of goofy knick-knacks). That alcove would have originally had more than just an ornamental purpose, though. It would have held a large (most likely copper) basin equipped with a sort of spout that would have served as the family's wash tub. Going outside and around the house confirmed that there was, indeed, a small hole that had been plugged. This hole would have allowed for the evacuation of used water. If it had occurred to me, I would have snapped a little shot of one of these basins, as there is one hanging on the wall in my husband's grandmother's livingroom. Very impressive object.

Now on to the goofy knick-knacks. They were truly everywhere. At one moment in our stay, I turned to my husband and asked him to select what he believed to be the kitchiest thing in the house. We disagreed, but I decided to snap a shot of each to let you decide which was worse. I found the funky, beadish watchamacallit hanging from the stairs to be by far the weirdest object in the place.

My husband, on the other hand, was really put off by the fake candle chandellier. Notice how the lightbulbs are supposed to look like candles. I think I've seen plenty of these in my lifetime, so it seemed much less out-of-place.

And, as one last little thought before I set the table for lunch, I leave you with a photo that expresses the kind of inspiration that a cabin in the-middle-of-nowhere can provide.

Lambchop #1 was given the task of painting a picture for her great aunt as a thank you for a very nice gift she was given. This beautiful painting of a flower was the result. I would gladly have kept it and framed it. That's how much I love this painting, but I couldn't, so I at least took a picture of it for posterity.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Like Promised

I know it's been several days since I promised more pictures of our little trip. I've got plenty of excuses for why that hasn't happened yet, most of which are related to pregnancy, of coursel. All of them basically amount to saying that I've got other things on my mind, so I don't blog much these days, even if I do have things to share. And, since I have things to share, I will try to do so here. Right now. Let's see if Blogger cooperates (it wouldn't the other morning when I actually sat down to post something.

So, first up, we've got a picture of those pretty slate rooves I was telling you are typical of the area in and around the town of Argentat. One of the things that Americans should notice when traveling through France (and probably other European countries, too) is that the people have always tended (until somewhat recently) to use the materials closest to the building site to make their homes. Pretty logical, really, but being raised in American neighborhoods that all look like the next, where each home bears a strong resemblance to those surrounding it, this logic might escape you. Sure, in the US, there are some architectural differences between the homes found in the South versus those built in California, for example. But, if you look at the homes found in the rather large region that is Southern California, they all look pretty similar. Not so in a region of the same size in France.

You don't have to drive far to change terrains here, and the homes in each different terrain reflect the terrain itself. This allows you to end up with deep red rock houses in one area and quaint little homes with slanted slate rooves in another. You don't even have to travel great distances to see the changes in architecture. One village may have one distinct aspect to its architecture while a village less than a half-hour away has another. This makes roaming the French countryside especially fun.

So, let's roam a little, shall we? Let the picture here take you away to a faraway land. Pretend you are no longer at your desk at work, staring blankly at your computer hoping your boss doesn't notice you're surfing the net. Let's all go to a little hamlet called Le Falgoux. Yes, hamlets still exist in parts of France. Le Falgoux, the one our cabin was located in has less than 10 houses in it. Very cute. The house pictured here is the actual cabin we stayed. It is a few hundred years old and recently remodeled to house vacationers. Back in the day, it would have been used both as a home and a barn. Yep, I know many of you sleep with your dogs or cats, but how about your pigs and cows? Before the advent of central heating (or at least radiators), poorer families shared quarters with the stench that was their beasts of burden in order to profit from their stinky warmth. Luckily, times have changed, and this place was equipped with in-floor heating coils, a wood-burning stove and radiators, so no need for the stink. Cute, though, ain't it? We'll take a little tour of the inside another day, but notice the slate roof. That's very typical of the area.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

To Get the Ball Rolling

I'm not going to sit and post all of our vacation photos in one shot, because I don't have the concentration needed to sit still that long. I will, however, give you a little taste of what we experienced.

First, I have to say that the region we visited, Correze (and specifically a town called Argentat), is beautiful. For those of you interested, it is the area of the country Jacques Chirac is from. For those of you (Dad) whom that thought makes cringe, just focus on the rest of what I'm about to say. It's an area that I find to be particularly lovely, most likely because there are aspects of it that remind me of places I spent much time in during my youth.

From the age of 8 until I was 12, we lived out in the boonies of a suburban area near Tulsa, OK. I have wonderful memories of our wilderness-surrounded home, even if for other reasons, Tulsa is sometimes referred to as the armpit of the US. I, personally, don't find this to be true, even if it is somewhat backwards, economically speaking, compared to other parts of the country. It's an area whose rolling hills are covered with forests of oak trees (and angus cows). It is also a place where moss-covered rocks are scattered throughout the landscape. This is the part I remember, and I it's beautiful.

Another place we visited often when I was child was Missouri. My father was an avid fisherman at the time, and we took several trips to Branson, MO, which is also full of wonderful landscapes. Correze, like the Branson area, is well-known for its trout fishing. So, it is parts of Oklahoma and Missouri that I think of when we visit the area where my husband's mother and her family come from. There are many similarities, though there are also distinct differences that make Correze unmistakeably French.

In this picture, you can see the main difference, which is the architecture. What you don't see are the slate rooves that are typical of the area. They're covered by snow, here, but I promise to share other pictures of them bare. This is the entrance to the town of Argentat, which lies next to the Dordogne river. These homes along the river are the prime real estate of the town. My husband once told me of a family member a few generations back who owned one and lost it gambling. As if to right his ancestor's wrong, my husband's uncle recently purchased a fixer-upper along this very same stretch.

And, just a little update for those of you cheering me on in my nesting (thanks for the encouragement, by the way)... I got a little bee in my bonnet today to clear out some boxes that have burdened our hallway (even if it is pretty wide) for years. I'm almost embarrassed to say it has taken me this long to get to them. They've irritated me since we moved in here, but I've never made them a top priority. They are full of old paperwork and junk, most of which can surely be thrown out. I tackled two of them today, and I think I've got three more to go. I was able to consolidate all of the items my husband will need to sort through, while tossing and saving others. Yay! What a sense of accomplishment.

I also spent some time this morning sorting through our stock of seeds, since I really want to do our garden right this year. I was quite shocked to see the quantity and variety of seeds we already have on hand. Some are surely too old to sprout, but I'm going to give them a go just to see. There will only be a few things that we'll have to buy, though, in order to have all the veggies we tend to eat the most. They are now all sorted, organized and catalogued. I've even planned out some planting for this week. That's the beauty of living in warmer climes. You can plant stuff earlier. So, tomorrow, we'll be putting some seeds in dirt to see what happens.

Oh, and a little tip for those who find them in the same situation I'm in (of having to sift through tons of paperwork in dusty boxes): take your boxes outside if weather permits it. I didn't suffer from the effects the dust usually would have on me, and I got to bask in the sun's rays pretending I wasn't even doing any housework. Not bad at all.

We're Baaaaack...

It has taken me a couple of days to adjust to re-entry after our trip, and I still haven't gotten around to downloading our pictures, so a full post will have to come later, but I thought I'd at least assure you all that we did return - and safely.

The trip was lovely, and the expected cold front, although behind schedule somewhat, did arrive and briefly left the majority of France under a beautiful blanket of snow. This is why I'm extremely happy we left, because the region we actually live in was pretty much the only part of the entire country that didn't get the snow. Instead, those living in the Southeast received the gift of heavy rains and even flooding in some places. We were happy to have the chance to play in the snow, instead.

Details and pictures of the trip to follow...

One thing I can talk about without any pictures, though, is my newfound motivation for cleaning and organizing the house. We all know I need a little (understatement, really) help in that area, and finding enough motivation to last me can be hard. Well, staying in a little cabin in the woods, I was able to keep up with household chores, and the feeling of triumph related to that fact was enough to really get me busy when I got home. Three days into settling back home, and I've been busy almost every moment of every day trying to make our lives more easily liveable here (at least until we can move into the new house and have the space we really need). I've almost got the laundry entirely under control, and when that's done, my plan is to box up all clothes that will not fit my pregnant and post-pregnant body for a while. There's plenty, and there's no point is keeping it out. So, if I don't post much for a little while, just know that I am accomplishing a lot, anyway.