Nothing Can Capture Your Heart Like a Melody Can

Nothing Can Capture Your Heart Like a Melody Can…Isn’t this a great line? It comes from an old album by Abba, the popular singing group from the 70’s. Like many people, I rediscovered them when I saw the musical, Mama Mia. I have a little IPod that I’ve copied music to, including the sound tract of Mama Mia. Every morning I get my rapidly expanding butt out to walk and the only way I can stand it is to listen to music. I often sing along with the music and have had heads suddenly pop up from behind a hedge to see who is making that racket.
There is a huge mountain behind me, part of the Luberon Mountain range, and I chug up it huffing and puffing. The best part is turning around and heading downhill back to our home. Then I have more breath for singing.

“Thank you for the music, the song I’m singing.
Thanks for all the joy you’re bringing,
Who can live without it? I ask in all honesty
What would life be- without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say, Thank you for the music,
(here I throw my arms wide)
For giving it to meeeeeeee!”

This is when I get surprised from behind by one of the many bikers on the road who give me a curious look–this loony singer walking down the hill.

Some photos of an interesting village deep in lavender country called Simaine de la Rotund:

Transhumance in Riez

A Transhumance Festival is a great way to look at life as it was in times past, something that most festivals in France do. My husband and I made the trip deep into Lavender country to the village of Riez to observe the transhumance, when sheep (and goats and cows in some areas) are moved from lower country up into the mountains passing through villages on the way. Nowadays, due to heavy traffic and cities not wanting sheep passing through their streets, sheep are transported up to the fields of the mountains with huge trucks. I saw one the other day stuffed with sheep and little lambs in a container at the very bottom.
Times have changed in the containment of sheep in fields as well. At one time a shepherd and his dog had to watch over the flock at all times. Now there are fences that are charged with a light electrical current and one of the flock wears a special collar that keeps it and the others from trying to leave the area.
The Transhumance in Riez is mostly a tourist happening, I would guess, but rather thrilling nonetheless. The bells of the church ring out at 10:30 and shortly afterwards a shepherd and his dog make their way down the street followed by hundreds of sheep. The sheep huddle together, not moving onto the sidewalks, afraid of the people lined up to see them. After they have gone through the village, they end up in a field on the other side of the village with old Roman columns eagerly eating the fresh grass.

The shepherd leading his flock into the village.

All of the sheep were marked with a painted green C on their backs. I think this ram-the only one in the flock-didn’t like the color as he had the paint all over his horns and face.

Riez has a wonderful little market going on on Sundays selling articles from Provence, such as lavender oil and soap and olive oil. There were also some men from the Alps playing their long horns and then some women dressed in traditional costumes did some dancing to flutes and drums. It was a delightful look at a part of life now gone but not forgotten.

The men playing their Alpine horns, the Alphorn.

The women dancing.

A look at a lavender field. The lavender is just starting to bloom. It will be a couple of weeks before it is fully alive with its divine fragrance and color.

The Swimming Pool 2

The dirt finally had all settled and it was time to cover the horrible grass with large tile. I had wanted to use these large flat stones that I have seen around yards in Provence but they turned out to be very expensive so we went with regular sqaure tiles. I was also thinking of matching the tile already on our porch but Mrs. M., the lady who helped us with the landscaping, said we should go with a lighter color matching the pool’s edging. After she saw the finished work she said it was ok, as long as we were happy, whatever that meant. The man who did the work actually worked on his week vacation. He usually does something with large machines. He is a dark mahagony color due to his time in the sun and when he started in the mornings had on a t-shirt, hat and shorts. By noon he was in a bathing suit, and by the afternoon, the bathing suit had been turned into a bikini and a thong. Kind of yucky to look out there and see his butt and I was afraid to take a photo and have him turn around and see me doing so. In any case, he did a good job and we are happy with the results. Probably in January we will put in a little cabana.

One view of the tile.

The view from up above. The square area to the left is where the cabana will be. Note the bushes covered with yellow flowers, genet. It blooms in late spring and has an incredible odor rather like Jasmine. When you walk outside the air is filled with the fragrance.

The Swimming Pool

The Swimming Pool is the title of a rather steamy French movie. Alot of it is in English so you don’t have to spend your time reading subtitles. There is nudity and sex as there often is in French films and it gives you a look at some wonderful Provencal scenery.
So, as we were building our house, we also installed a swimming pool-no nudity or sex involved. It was a frustrating as building a house, really, with people not showing up to do work and some things having to be done over. In the end we got our pool. It was built with elevated walls that had to be surrounded by dirt to make it level with the house and we had to wait two years before we could do anything with the area around the pool as we had to wait for everything to settle. We have finally just finished putting in tile-they don’t do kool decking here as in the States that I have seen. I thought I would post photos of the whole process. It was interesting to go back and look at our yard as we landscaped it over two years. We really have done alot. We also have alot left to do.

The hole for the deep end was dug. There also had to be two support beams put in on the end so the pool wouldn’t slide down the hill.

Shape of pool made and lined with gravel.

The sides of the pool put in.

View from the shallow end.

Another view.

Finally they filled it all in with dirt.

We fill the pool with water.

Maurice trying the pool out and looking at the view.

I just add this because I thought it was interesting that this guy could take a nap after lunch anywhere. I think the workers got up really early to make the trip up to our house.

More to follow.

Two Walls

Decorating in not my gift. I know what I like when I see it, I love looking at decorating magazines, I tear out pictures of rooms that I like and, still, my house never looks like anything I imagine. We started with all white walls except for the kitchen and the living room which are a pale yellow. After Maurice’s son told us that our home looked like a museum-the little sh*t- I decided I needed to add a little more color to the walls here and there. I would, of course, do much more if we had unlimited money, but such is not the case, so I do things here and there as money, and my energy level, is available.
The first wall I painted was in our dining room. I bought some special powder mined from the area around the neat little village of Roussillon from which ochre color first came, mixed it with a product they also sold there and dabbed it on a wall with a sponge. It was screamingly bright gold and I wasn’t sure I liked it but it certainly brightened up the place and I like it now.

Here it is. It is actually a little lighter than this photo shows. I have a mirror on the floor leaning against the wall waiting either to be hung or placed on top of a piece of furniture, if we ever find one. I see photos all of the time in magazines of paintings leaning against walls so I figure I am right in style.
Next was the bathroom. Well, actually it is just a little room with a toilet and small sink called a water closet in England. Here in France they often have the toilet in a separate little room. The main problem, from my point of view, is that there isn’t a vent for heating or cooling in there and it can get chilly in the winter. There is a window if you should want to ventilate. Anyway, I decided I should add some color here. I used the method of crumbling up sheets of tissue paper, smoothing them out, and then painting the wall, placing the tissue paper on the painted portion and then painting on top of that. It looks rather cool, like leather, but you can see the lines where the pieces meet. I later read about tearing the paper into pieces and gluing them to the wall and then painting. I think that might have been more interesting but, oh well.

So here it is. I thought the color was way too powerful-I tend to be cautious and meek when painting walls-but I like it now. We had to add the yellow tile above the sink. Below the sink are ugly bare pipes so I painted them blue as well. I need to add another coat of paint but ran out. Paint costs a fortune here so I don’t know if I will. I also found out, after I painted one whole wall, that I was supposed to have added water to the paint–lack of communication from Maurice and my lack of French and not reading directions.
So, I’ve used up my decorating energy-and money-for now. My next step is getting more curtains in the living room and adding some color with valences but I’m not sure when that will be.

Favorite French Recipes

Cherry Clafoutis

It is cherry season here in Provence and I love it, cherries being one of my favorite fruits. We have a neighbor with two huge cherry trees and every summer he begs us to come over and pick cherries as he can’t use them all. We, of course, accept his offer. This is the first time I can actually eat all of the cherries I want. I eat so many that I make myself sick. We come home with bags so full of the fruit that the ones on the bottom get smashed.
So, what to do with all of those cherries? A friend was here last year and made duck breast with cherry sauce which was great and easy so I did that again this summer. I must say that it is an extremely messy meal to make. Duck has a huge amount of fat and makes a big mess of the stove and cherries, oh my. I learned to wear rubber gloves so I don’t have purple fingers and nails, to wear an apron so I don’t stain whatever I am wearing and to put the bowl and pits in the sink and do the whole operation there as the juice gets everywhere.
I used this to pit the cherries, a handy little devise, but it only get the pits out about 50% of the time and I have to manually get the pit out.

I filled a bowl with the cherries. I did a much larger bowl a few days earlier to make cherry jam but I decided to make a simple dessert called:

Cherry Clafoutis

Which turns out to be a kind of pudding.
The ingredients:
1 pound ripe cherries
2 Tbsp Kirch or lemon juice-I used orange liquor
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Pit the cherries-by the way, the French often don’t pit the cherries as they are supposed to add more flavor to the dessert but I find it a lot of work to eat it that way. Mix the cherries with the Kirsch and sugar and set aside for an hour. I only let it set about 30 minutes. Also the recipe called for a Tblsp of confectioner’s sugar which I didn’t have so I just used regular.
Prehaeat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a shallow ovenproof dish. The photo in my cookbook shows a cute oval dish but I only have a glass pie dish.
Sift the flour into a bowl (I never do this), add the sugar and slowly whisk in the milk until smoothly blended. Add the eggs, lemon zest, nutmeg and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined and smooth.
Scatter the cherries evenly in the baking dish.

Pour over the batter and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until set and puffed around the edges.

Before baking

After baking.

It is a very easy dessert to make and I love the combination of cherries, lemon zest and vanilla. I got compliments from some French people on this dessert so I guess I did it right.