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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I Totally Forgot About That

Yo yo yo yo! (That's the only thing I can think of when I see this picture.)

I just got my new computer set up enough to get out the camera and hook it up. For the first time in months, I have actually uploaded some pictures I took long ago. And, surprise, surprise! What did I see there? Some projects I had been meaning to show off here but never got around to posting about.

Do you remember a while back when I had mentioned that I was knitting a bunch of hats? Yeah, you probably don't. That's my point. It's been a really long time. Well, here is a picture of one of them. This one is my favorite of all the hats I made. It just makes me laugh. There's a little story behind this one. I made a cute little Superman hat for Lambchop #2. I finished it up one night at dinner at my mother-in-law's. My brother-in-law happened to be there, and he was actually jealous. He instantly fell in love with the hat and said he'd love to have one, too. Did I mention he's in his mid-thirties? See, here in France, the height of fashion is to have a garment that is completely unique. Well, he definitely got that. So, anyway, I made him one, and I was really pleased with both how it turned out, as well as his reaction to it. He was very excited to see it, because I think he only half-expected me to make it for him. Then, he happened to receive it on the same day he lost his other hat. Couldn't get much better timing than that.

What I didn't forget about was the sheepies. You guys really like your animals - or is it just the furry ones that have the potential to produce knitting yarn? Unfortunately, these aren't really that kind. We won't hold that against them, though, because they are really cute. They are a local breed that is on the way out - I don't know if they would say extinction, but it's a rare breed. It's called the Caussenarde des Garrigues breed. There is a lot of tradition surrounding these sheep. They have these special bells they wear when in transit as well as these funny little red pompoms. My husband is interested in helping to preserve the breed. I'm interested in inviting them over for Sunday brunch, if you know what I mean. Okay, I'm teasing about that, but they are a meat breed. We'll just have to wait and see if I'll actually be able to eat them after having their cute little faces stare at me all wide-eyed like that.

So, how did I lose them? It's actually pretty easy to lose a small herd of sheep if you're really careful about it. All you have to do is put them between you and the gate. It's made even easier if, just on the outside of the gate, there is a huge pile of very appetising-looking hay. So, I had fed them, and was going over to get their water buckets to refill them when they saw that really tasty pile of hay. There wasn't much else I could do at that point. I then spent the next hour chasing them. First, I tried carefully maneuvering them back into their pin by putting myself in the places I didn't want them to go. Didn't work. They had too many options. I finally ended up accidentally startling them, and they bolted. They ran so fast, I decided to get the kids' help. Yes, I was going to count on a three-year-old and a five-year-old to help me round up 15 sheep. Forget the fact that they were both feverish with the flu and it was rainy outside. "Don't worry about changing clothes, kids, the sheep don't mind your pjs." Because I'm a caring mother.

So, we all piled into the Land Rover and hunted them down. They had actually gone pretty far. I found them in one of our lower vineyards munching on some bushes. So, I came at them with the car (slowly, of course), and made them want to go up hill to their pin. This was a slow process, but it was working. Then, I came to a fork in the road. I asked Lambchop #1 to get out and walk up one side of the fork while I walked up the other. She got a little overzealous and ran at them. This made them run, and boy do sheep run fast. I had no idea. They look all slow, but they're not at all. In fact, that's they're only line of defense. That and their herding instinct. They have no strength and no teeth or claws, so they can only run. And, run, they do.

So, we all got back in the car and headed up hill. They had ended up not too far from their pin. I tried placing a kid on either side of the winery in an attempt to get them back in their pin. I told Lambchop #2 to just wave his hands if he saw the sheep. Don't count on the help of a sick three-year-old for rounding up a herd of animals, though. It just didn't end well. The second I was out of sight, he started to cry and search for me. He was half-hysterical, saying he had waved his arms (forgetting the part about seeing sheep before you wave). He just didn't quite grasp the instructions. So, I gave up and called my husband. I whimpered to him about how sorry I was for losing his brand-new sheep. He and his father both reassured me that you just don't lose sheep like that, and they'd turn up. Sure enough, they did.

Took my husband all of 30 minutes to find them and get them back in their pin when he got home. In the meantime, they had a lovely couple days investigating the parts of our property they wouldn't normally get to see. And, I got to feel like I was on the Simple Life without my Gucci bag and Manolo Blahnik shoes. Talk about feeling underdressed for the party!

And, here is one last picture of them for you. See the one with her leg up? Those little legs really move, I'm telling you.


Monday, February 26, 2007


I have been mostly over the flu for the past couple of days now, but I just can't seem to shake the leftovers. I have felt completely void of any type of motivation and just pretty glum in general. I have even been considering baking up a huge old-fashioned chocolate cake, complete with icing and all 30 million calories. Will that really help things? Most likely not, but part of me is sure it will. I guess it doesn't help that I have a nasty cough that just won't quit. And, the piles of dishes, dust bunnies and laundry that are the result of having the kids home all day every day while I was sick don't add to any motivation I might have. I just feel like I need an escape from my life. A day spa, maybe. I have actually never done that, but I could totally picture myself relaxing in a nice jacussi and getting a facial and all other sorts of pampering right about now. Are 6-month-old babies invited to these sorts of events? Because I think she could really dig the mud bath (get it? dig - mud. Oh, I kill me. No, that's even really all that funny. See what happens after a week of the flu? I'm just no good anymore.).

There is, however, lots to be motivated about. I mean, I have this gorgeous new house. It is full of space and light. I love it, but I can't feel excited about cleaning it today. In fact, I would like to find any other thing to do to occupy myself. And, we have some fun new friends outside. I didn't mention it around here, I don't think (because it coincided with the move, and I just didn't get around to it), but we now have 15 sheep. They aren't fiber sheep, unfortunately, but they are really cute. I love to just sit and watch them through our front windows. Talking about them reminds me that I need to fill you in on the great story of the first day I was left alone with them. I lost them. Yes, I did. Don't think you misread that. The very first time they were entrusted to my care, and I lost 15 whole sheep. Had to go hunt them down. That's a story for another day, though.

For today, I think I'll tell you about my new computer instead. I should actually take a picture of my old laptop, but it's too sad, and you might cry. I know it's probably enough to make my Mac–loving older brother teary-eyed just thinking about its missing keys and other pathetic problems. I have had that laptop since October or so of 2001. It was even dropped on its poor little head two or three times by Lambchop #1. That episode caused us to have to change its hard drive. It was a real low point in our relationship. Obviously, the computer wasn't pleased, but I was pretty bummed to have lost a decent number of baby pictures as well as the very important application to get into grad school here that I was working on at the time. It has recently started being very bizarre and jamming up way more than it should. Given its age, most people would have said it was time to move on to someone new. We didn't really have the money for that, though.

Luckily for me, my mother and my brother plotted in my absence. I had told my mother that I couldn't think of a nice house-warming gift I needed for the new house. I really couldn't, though I have since thought of several things I'd like to have, even if they might be considered unnecessary. My brother knew of my computer troubles, and he suggested a new computer. Odd house-warming gift, to say the least, but worth every penny, looking back on it. I say that, because it sure is nice to type on this new-fangled keyboard. Who'd have thought they make them with all their keys still attached? And, I think the best thing about the new computer has to be that I can now properly use iChat to see my family with our fun little webcams. Before, it was too fuzzy a picture to warrant the effort needed to actually get a connection between my mom's computer and my own. Just when we got things going, it would all jam up. Last night, we learned that was no longer a problem. Money definitely well-spent, I would say.

Ooh, and with this new computer, when I type, the words can actually keep up with my fingers (and, no I don't type 100 words a minute). Very cool, indeed. Makes me just want to sit here and type and type and type. Surely, you will get bored with this post after too long, though, so I guess I should attempt to find some motivation for other tasks. Like... blog reading. I haven't done much of that in that past couple months that I haven't had an internet connection in the new house. I'll have to gradually work my way back into the groove of blog reading and see what all my favorite online friends are up to these days. Luckily, most of the blogs I read the most are written by people who can't find the time to post TOO often. So, I only have a little under a thousand blog posts to sift through. No big deal. Right?

I think I will go clean some windows now. That is completely unrelated to the dishes that are calling my name downstairs, but it still qualifies as household chores, right? Good thinking. If only knitting and blogging qualified. I'd have no trouble finding motivation. I really just want to sit down in front of the computer and read a bunch of blogs while I knit. I haven't knit more than a few rows in the past couple of months, and I really miss it (and those rows were on shoulders, which is like knitting less than one normal row). Yeah, on to those windows, so I can get a good picture of the sheep from here for you.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Linguistic Tidbits

In my last post, I mentioned that I was having trouble keeping all the linguistic tids and bits in my head from getting tangled. Happens when I am sick or tired sometimes. A brain fog of sorts, I guess (by the way, I've been feverless for a full day now and only have a nasty cough and back ache left to deal with, so I am feeling relatively better now - thanks for everyone's concern).

I never thought mentioning that my foreign languages get mixed with each other could actually cause more than one person to comment. Jo's comment makes me want to get all teachy on you. See, if you look at my profile, you'll see that I studied theoretical linguistics. Actually, before throwing in the towel for the thankless, yet somehow (at least occasionally) fulfilling job of full-time parenting, I was actually working on a doctoral thesis on bilingual language acquisition (how babies - mine - pick up two languages at once). Sounds quite hoity-toity, but pleased don't be too impressed, I didn't get very far before abandoning my efforts. My studies in this realm did, however, provide me with lots of fun linguistic tidbits that qualify as entirely useless information to the task of raising children. Which is why, when you give me even the slightest opening to use this info, I'll jump on the chance.

So, listen up, the product of my who-knows-how-many years of higher education is about to be laid before your very eyes. Don't blink too much. It's short. You might miss it. So, Jo said that when living in Japan, if a Japanese word was eluding her, it would inevitably be the French one (the other foreign language she knew) that would come to mind. Some might find it odd that it wouldn't have been the English word to pop up, since she surely knows that language better.

(Remember: don't blink, here comes the good part)

Well, studies have been done (at great financial cost to somebody, I'm sure) that show that your first language processing takes place in one section of the brain while the processing of a second language takes place in another section. What happens when you throw in a third or fourth or - I bow down to you - fifth language? All those get lumped into the same section as that second language. The result is that the first language is relatively easy to keep separate from the foreign ones, but each foreign language can interfere with the others. Sometimes their little wires can get crossed.

So, when you are speaking Maori, and you can't for the life of you remember the word for 'supercalifragilistics', but then it suddenly comes to you in Swahili, it's only because your brain knows you are in foreign language mode, not native language mode, so when looking for the word that describes the concept you have in mind it is sifting through those entries in the card catalog of the foreign language section of the library. I guess when the brain is fogged over from fatigue or illness (or old age, as I am likely to learn some day), it gets a little less picky as to which foreign language it decides to select from when choosing vocabulary words. Hey, we all get sloppy from time to time. Who can blame the little librarian in your brain?

So, there you have it, folks. I have now unveiled the truth to one of life's least asked questions for you. Yeah, I do what I can for the betterment of mankind. Oh, and if you are wondering how they know this from their study, I'll quickly tell you that, too. It was a neurolinguistics study where they measured brain activity with electrodes and "stuff" (this part was obviously not the bulk of my studies). Then, they asked people to speak their native language and then the foreign ones. They were then able to see which parts of the brain were active when each language was being spoken.

That's pretty much it. And, may I just thank you for endulging me a bit on this. I spent a good portion of my adult life paying to amass this kind of information for what, in the end, turned out to be no apparent reason. I like to feel it served some little purpose from time to time.

Now that we all feel a least .0023% smarter I should resume my real job - the one no amount of education could prepare you for - and go get lunch on the table.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Flu Got Me Down

Hopefully, I'll be able to come give you a longer post soon. Everybody in the family had the flu last week, and this week it's my turn. I'm into day 4 here and feeling a little better, but still not 100% yet. I had forgotten how unfun the flu can be. I have pretty much spent my days in bed attempting, yet often not being able to sleep. Needless to say, this affects my mental state, and I doubt I could give you a very coherent post at all. My French, when I try to use it is all messed up - Spanish words keep popping into my mind instead (that hasn't happened to me in years).

Thanks for the comments on my recent clothing acquisitions. I appreciate hearing that I am not totally crazy for buying used stuff like that (not used to doing that, but in my ongoing efforts to conserve money, and hopefully a bit of the planet as well, I thought I'd give it a shot).

Okay, back to resting (maybe I can throw in some knitting today, too - good for the soul you know. Helps cure what ails you, I'm sure. Well, unless it's allergies to cute furry creatures whose hair is spun into yarn, I guess).


Saturday, February 17, 2007

My New Friend

Gratuitous baby picture first:

I recently made the aquaintance of a new friend, and it is most definitely not the countertop in our new kitchen. Trying to do a quick and cheap kitchen, we opted for stainless steel sheets that my husband had professionally bent to form to the counters that he later applied himself. All in all, I think he did a fine job. There is one little detail that he missed, though. He should have had them bend the front edges inward as well. The metal is sharp and could be considered a bit of a hazard. I have nicked my knuckles on it numerous times getting things out of the drawers (those with smaller or larger hands may be immune to this one). I also sliced my finger on it this morning.

Then, I started to notice mysterious slash marks on my shirts. This one had me stumped when it first happened to my favorite hand-made sweater (two holes I have to fix on it now). Then, it was happening to my other shirts as well. I just didn't get it. When I noticed how many of my shirts had literally been shredded, it finally hit me. When I do the dishes at the kitchen sink, I rub my post-pregnancy belly up against the counter, and in doing so, I slice little gashes into my shirts. I should actually post a picture of the damage for you. It's pretty impressive on some shirts. Some of the shirts had stains on them anyway, so I wasn't too upset. Others were the ones I so lovingly altered a month or two ago. I wasn't even too annoyed about that since they didn't cost me much or anything at all, and messing them up only means I'll get another go at customising my own clothes.

So, armed with the name of the French version of Goodwill or The Salvation Army (Secours Populaire, for those who would like to know), I looked in the online Yellow Pages to find one nearby. I called up one that is about 15 minutes from where I live to find out how to get there and what their hours are. When I told the lady on the phone which village I lived in, she promptly mentioned the one hiding in our village. It is only open once every two weeks on Fridays for two hours only, but it just happened to be open yesterday. I only had about 20 minutes to spare, but in that time I found several fun things to play with. So, in the next few posts (as the clothes come out of the washer), I'll show them to you.

I'm letting you see the ugliest one first. It's an old lady shirt (even had that old lady smell). Pretty awful, but I liked the color (which is not very well-represented in this dark picture - I promise to do better once I finish the remodel of it). It's really a bright pink. And, the flouncy things up top crack (accidentally typed "crap" there - appropriate?) me up. I have already stripped them off with a seam stripper to leave a Mandarin color (isn't that what they're called). I will most likely throw in a few well-placed darts to trim the waste a bit, and I'm excited to say those little bits of turkey gobble I removed will be just the right size make into sleeve flounces. That should be pretty cute in the end, I think.

Next up, I have one of the best finds in the bunch, if you're thinking in terms of original price. Here in France, there is a brand that is very well-known and very expensive that makes high-quality Provençal fabrics into clothing. It's not necessarily my style, but when you happen across one in a thrift shop for 1 euro, you just don't argue. You snatch it up and think of its potential. It's actually a bit big, since it's a men's medium, but that just gives me more room to mess with it, right? Incidentally, this one, along with the flouncy old lady number are the kids' favorites. I guess there's no accounting for taste.
For this next one, I would like you to focus on the jacket. It's brand new looking (the spots are on my mirror because Lambchop #1 shakes her hands a little to vigorously when she washes them). It's a pretty well-known brand here in France. The best thing about it, though, is the fiber content. I wore it briefly yesterday evening and was surprised by its warmth. That's when I got around to reading the label. It's mostly wool with some nylon and a pinch of cashmere. I've forgotten the exact percentages, though. Very cozy. When I grabbed it off the rack, I didn't much time to study it well. I figured it would be a nice acrylicky thing to wear around the house till I can fix my sweater. What a pleasant surprise to see it's mostly made of wool and cashmere.

This next shirt is actually one of the real "best deals" of the bunch, because it fits me perfectly and is like new. No altering necessary at all, which pleases the instant gratification side of me. It is the same shirt as the one in that last picture, but I'm just showing it to you separately. Okay, I'm annoyed now. I am having to reload two of the photos I already uploaded. Why is Blogger like this? They just disappeared into thin air. Here we go. Anyway, the stripes on this shirt make it very hard to photograph without it becoming blurry, but you get the idea. It has pink, gray and white stripes. I am very happy with it. I got another one exactly like it in black (same brand and all). I will show you that one when I show you the pants I bought to match it. In keeping with my plan to spice up my pretty drab wardrobe tendencies, I selected some pants I wouldn't normally think of wearing. They're pretty fun, though, so I'm happy.

You'll see those as well as the two coats, the skirt and the other 5 or 6 shirts I bought later. And, what is the total price I paid (I'll bet you're wondering)? I think I must have gotten a total of 15 or 16 items for a whopping 12 euros. 11, actually, if you consider the fact that one coat had a 1 euro coin in it. How's that for a good deal? So, who's the new friend? Why the Secours Populaire, of course. Oops, no time to edit. I just received a call from the crying baby next door (in my defense, if he'd get around to installing the internet and my desk, I wouldn't have to do this in his office while he watches the kids).

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words: The Sequel

This is the new and improved sequel of the last post where I mentioned pictures but didn't give you any. I don't know about you, but I do enjoy looking at the kiddos. And, with the move, it has been weeks since my poor family has seen them - no, Mom we didn't eat them for dinner tonight with BBQ sauce. See, these pictures were taken just after dinner while they were zoning out in front of the tv. Actually, I'm not sure what the baby was looking at but whatever - you get the point. And, it must have been a girly show, because the boy was happy to give me a nice smile.

Speaking of which, this picture just perfectly sums up his little personality. Do you see the mischief in his eyes (or hair)? He just cracks me up.

And lastly, not to sound all proud of myself, but I look at this girl and I am amazed that such beauty came from my womb. It has to be because I stumbled across the handsomest husband ever. Yep, I am a proud mommy, but it's my website and I'll gloat if I want to... gloat if I want to... gloat if I want to. You would gloat to if these kids happened to you.

Yeah, this is what being the mother of three kids can do to your brain. Some might claim I was like this before. I will neither confirm nor deny.

And, for those I owe a little email, please be patient. I still don't have internet in the new house. If you would like my husband's email address so you can badger him about this, please do let me know.


Monday, February 05, 2007

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words

But, does that mean that without one I need to write that many words? Because I just don't have the time today. The move is going pretty well. It's begun to stall, though, which I'm unhappy about. Hubby seems to have gotten unmotivated, and life with three kids is getting in the way. It is moving along slowly, though.

I have a little recipe for you today. For anyone who actually keeps a sourdough starter around the house, here's a fun and very easy bread recipe I came up with last night:


4-4 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
about 1 1/3 cups liquidy sourdough starter (often called barm)
1 packet of yeast
1 tablespoon of salt
water for additional moisture

How To:

Put 2 cups flour in large bowl with salt and yeast - mix.
Pour sourdough starter into dry mixture and stir with large spoon till combined.
Gradually add the rest of the flour and enough water (alternating the two ingredients) to obtain a very thick batter consistency - it will be sticky, but you don't care because you don't have to knead it.
Cover in same bowl you mixed it in and allow to rise till doubled in bulk.
Stir down (like punching down the dough but you deflate it by stirring with a spoon).
Pour into well-greased tube cake, bundt cake pan or whatever you might have that is tall enough to accomodate the dough once it has fully risen (since it is very soft dough, you don't want it to overflow).
Allow to double in size.
Bake in hot oven (I've got a gas oven that doesn't have any temps on it, so use your best judgement here - maybe 400° F or something) till it sounds hollow when tapped and the top is lightly browned.

I also think you could have some fun with adding nuts, herbs or sun-dried tomatoes to this recipe at the point where you stir it down. I just ate some sliced and toasted with butter and jelly for breakfast, and it was delicious. The low number of ingredients and the lack of time spent kneading made this a very easy bread to make. The sourdough starter gives it the flavor of a bread that has spent much more time rising than this one did. It also has a moist, airy texture that is almost spongey and it slices easily because of the bundt cake form it has. It will certainly become a busy day bread around our house.

I hope the all one of you who happen to have sourdough starter on hand enjoy the recipe. And, maybe it will convince the rest of you to attempt to make some starter as well. I will try to think to add a picture to this post later so you can see the fun shape of this bread. Until then... well... until then.