workshop fun

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our chef Nese

My wonderful workshop of 10 adventuresome ladies just left. We had a most wonderful week of art making, fun, laughs, good conversation and yummy food from our personal chef Nese. These gals were just lovely and so inspirational.

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in the sunflower field

The sunflowers were in high bloom and we found a field where les tournesols were taller than us. Took many pictures. And the yellow against the blue skies is a thing of beauty.

 

 

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chef Gigi at le Tournesol

We also ate at one of my favorite restaurants- le Tournesol– where Gigi, chef extraordinaire has been making great food and supporting local artists for years.

Sunday we traveled to a village near the Canal du Midi for a flea market- everyone picked up wonderful treasures to use in our art projects and to go home with.

Each day I looked forward to our conversations, laughter and watching each of them create.

Thank you ALL for a most wonderful week. Carol, Carolyn, Stephanie, Yvonne, Sheena, Carla, Suzi, Nan, Pam and Linda!

off to Bordeaux

bordeauxThe International Polymer Clay Association is having our conference in Bordeaux this summer. I’m a train ride away so will hop the train in Toulouse on Saturday morning to attend this gathering of wonderful artists. There will be daily seminars and gatherings for talks on special subjects.

This will be interesting to me as there will be an European perspective on our art from. The last Synergy I attended was in the US several years ago. From what I read and see there is huge energy and exciting work being made by the artists in Europe in polymer clay.  I’ll report on the event next post.

Been a very busy and fun week. We had our annual Tchatchason festival last Saturday. This is a festival celebrating poetry, storytelling and song.

Five of us here in the village volunteered to help the festival chef all afternoon. Great fun and interesting. The meal was roasted lamb- a Méchoui- which is an Arab word meaning roast and it is given especially to whole lamb cooked outdoors on a spit over a charcoal or wood fire. We also made a rice salad filled with roasted veggies, couscous  and fresh peaches for dessert.  About 120 people attended the festival dinner so you can imagine how much chopping we did!

rajiThe evening event with Raji was the highlight of the festival. He is a very special dancer- you can look at a video on his Facebook page or You Tube. The room was spread with 4 inches of white feathers and as he danced and twirled the effect was magical.

This will be a short post today and I’ll make up for it next week.

French Dinner Parties

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our village potluck dinner

One of the joys of living in a small village is participating in meals with our friends and neighbors. French dinner parties (and lunches too) are a thing unto themselves. Sitting around a big table, sharing food, conversation, storytelling (and debates) is a time to be savored. Most dinners start about 7 PM and can go well past midnite. Food is eaten slowly with time in between courses to digest (and talk more!)

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my first dinner party for 17!!

After a couple years of being invited to dinners with French friends, I decided it was time for me to throw one myself. It’s a bit complicated, there are rules spoken and unspoken, and I was nervous. But I approached it with the idea that I would do the best I could with good humor and hoped they would understand any faux pas!

P1080604There are many courses to a traditional dinner party. You start with apero. This  means, drinks and nibblies. A simple apero would be wine and nuts. More elaborate aperos would feature kirs (white wine and cassis) and champagne. And more extensive nibblies- perhaps a plate of chorizo chiffonade, olives, small crackers, pates, cornichons, stuffed peppers, mussels. There is an aisle in the grocery store devoted to just apero!

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a tomato tart in the making

Next comes the starter- or entree in France. This is usually some wonderful and arty looking small dish. Perhaps smoked salmon and avocado in a beautiful mold. Or a slice of fresh tomato tarte. Or a small dish of roasted eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and mozzarella. Today I served a small cup of pasta with homemade pesto, tomato slice and parmesan.

Quick tip– pine nuts are so expensive that I have been substituting cashews for them in my pesto with great success. I can’t tell the difference and it is delicious.

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night time parties can be magical

Next is the main course. At most dinner parties this will be a meat or fish dish. I have several dishes that I think are dinner party worthy ( and some that have not been). Today I served a salmon with roasted cauliflower and roasted carrots. The salmon recipe is superb! HERE it is.

Next is  salad. Nothing too fancy. Greens with vinaigrette- to clean the palate. Followed by the cheese course with a nice bread.

And finally the dessert. Wonderful chocolate dishes, fruit tartes, small cakes ( my absolute fave Fondant au Chocolate), sorbets and ice creams with a simple cookie. Creme brule, granitas, profiteroles. On and on and on……..

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The Durfort Kazoo Orchestra

Oh but wait- it’s not really the last course. Still to come- coffee (or tea), chocolate and home made liqueurs. And more conversation! Or maybe impromptu music!

The Sunday Flea Markets

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setting up for the vide grenier

On Sundays, during my art  workshop (and every other Sunday to be honest) is a day for exploring the French flea markets. As an added benefit- it’s also a way to discover and explore new villages.

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have to take a coffee break while setting up!!

Most village/towns/cities have at least one annual flea market. Anyone that lives in the village  is given a free space to show their wares. If there are empty spaces then professional antique dealers can rent those spaces.

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good stuff at the Lautrec village vide grenier

In France these markets are called Vide Greniers which literally means “empty the attic”.  In our part of France wonderful treasures can still be found at incredibly low prices. The Paris flea markets are of course amazing- but I think our country flea markets have the best bargains. I never spend more than 20Euros and usually come back home with lots of treasures.

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hmmmnnn can’t remember which village but good treasures

Each year I like to focus on hunting for a particular treasure (tho many other things may catch my eye). One year- antique buttons, one year old linens, one year antique metal parts– keys, drawer pulls, ancient locks and all kind of brass and silver goodies. This year- maybe small pitchers or perfume bottles.

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treasures!

There’s junk too- the vide greniers are not antique fairs- it truly is an “empty the attic”.  So there are children’s toys, records and tapes, old postcards and magazines, cookbooks and my summer wardrobe is made up of great finds at these fairs.  My 1E wardrobe is quite wonderful!!

Our village Vide Grenier  is this Sunday– last year about 7000 people came!

 

Strawberry season

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under the central square in Revel built 1342

Each Saturday at the Revel Saturday market, I look for what special seasonal fruits and veggies have arrived.  Underneath the roof of the central square (built in 1342) the smaller farmers sell the fruits of their labor. Right now beautiful berries have arrived. Strawberries first. Cherries are just starting in now too.

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Then groseilles (red and black currants.)

My favorite strawberries- so far this year- are the Fraises des Bois– wild strawberries ( of the woods). These berries are small, sweet and aromatic- absolutely delish.

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our strawberry patch
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YUM

We are growing strawberries too in our garden- but another variety. Last year they took over almost one whole raised bed so this year we are replanting them in a hanging system made with a gutter. Pictures after the project is made!!

Back to the strawberries. I just made a delicious and so easy ice cream with the fresh strawberries. You’ll need a small ice cream maker- I love our Donvier. We’ve had it for years. You can order HERE. I’m sure any brand will work tho. Or go HERE to learn how to make icecream without an icecream maker! By the way David Lebovitz is one of my favorite bloggers and his cookbook My Paris Kitchen is superb.

Anyway- what I did-I made  a combination of cream and coconut milk. Then added the fresh berries and their juices. Before I added the berries I “softened” them. You can sprinkle a little sugar on to release the juices or put in the oven for a few minutes- “roast” them a little so to speak. I added a bit of sugar (or honey) and a little vanilla until I liked the balance of sweet and “fruity”.

Then into the machine and Voila! I just checked my camera and it looks like we ate it before I snapped a picture. On to make more this weekend!

 

 

 

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