Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Samhaim


When I was a kid, I loved Halloween, like capital L-oved it. It wasn't just the dressing up, or the candy, it was the whole vibe of it. It was that for one night we were allowed to run wild like faeries, waiting for that veil between the living and the dead to come tumbling down with screaming banshees hot on our heels. Childhood me, always thought there was a banshee not far behind... a tad morbid I know. I blame my Gaelic roots on that one. After all, the history of Halloween lays deep in the Celtic lands.

And maybe the generations of spookiness in Ireland are what fueled my family's love of Halloween and ghost stories. With All Hallow's Eve only a day away, I thought that I'd take a break from Le Petit Village and tell you all about some of the creepy history that make up Halloween.



Pumpkin-mania hits the U.S. every fall, and part of the pumpkin fun is carving them into Jack O'Lanterns. But even Jack O'Lanterns have a creepy past... It all started with Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack asked the Devil to have a drink with him (as you do) and Stingy Jack being stingy, didn't want to pay for his drink. (He didn't have the nickname 'Stingy' for nothing). Somehow Jack convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that he could use to pay the tab, but as soon as the Devil did, Jack decided to keep the coin instead and he put it in his pocket next to a cross he carried. Since crosses work magic against evil, the Devil couldn't switch back into his normal devil self. One day Jack got tired of carrying around a Devil coin in his pocket, so he told him he'd free him but only if the Devil wouldn't bother him from one whole year.

The next year, somehow Jack tricked the Devil again (How gullible is the Devil by the way???). This time into climbing a tree to pick some fruit. While the Devil was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the bark so that the Devil couldn't come down. Jack made the Devil promise him that he would leave him alone for another ten years.

And then Jack died. Since there was no-way-jose the good Lord was letting Stingy Jack into heaven, he passed him along to the Devil, but the Devil didn't want him either, so he sent Jack off into the dark night to roam about for eternity. But being not entirely uncool, the Devil gave Jack a bit of burning coal so he could see. Fashioning a makeshift lantern, Jack put the coal into a carved-out pumpkin and that's how his name changed from 'Stingy Jack' to 'Jack of the Lantern', and eventually to, Jack O'Lantern. (He is Irish after all).



Then there's the whole fun of dressing up and going door to door looking for treats, that has a wicked history too... Way back in the day, winter was scary. The days were short and the dark nights long with hardly the means to light them up. And on Halloween, the one day of the year when the spirits were free to come back and roam the earth, people were more than a little scared to go outside, but sometimes you just have to. Those that did have to venture out, took to donning masks in an attempt to trick the ghosts into thinking that they were fellow ghosts and goblins. So that's where the dressing up came from. (I don't know if this would work with some of the costumes you see today though... lingerie + mouse ears... hmmm...)

The treats part of it all comes from when people would place bowls of food outside their homes hoping that the ghosts would be happy with the offering and would leave them alone and not play any naughty tricks on them, you know like scaring the bejeezus out of them causing heart attacks and what not. And there you go... Trick or Treat. (But back in the day it was probably more like, Trick or Bowl of Porridge).

Spooky Bisous!
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Monday, October 28, 2013

tartiflette

Today I'm going to do something that I've never done before... a recipe post. You see what happened was this; on Saturday afternoon, we were watching the rugby on telly (Clermont was battling Brive in one doozy of a match), when Gregory suddenly sat up, looked and me and exclaimed, "I want Tartiflette." (These food epiphanies occur more often than not in my house.)

Because I aim to please, I said I would make Tartiflette for Sunday lunch and since Tartiflette is a French dish, I thought that maybe I'd attempt to take some photos of the process and share it with you.

Disclaimer: The following photos are far, far from food blogger territory, but practice makes perfect, right? 

If summers in Provence belong to barbecues, Aioli and Rosé, the colder weather calls for much heavier, stick to your ribs kind of fare, most of it laden with cheese, like Tartiflette.

First you start by peeling potatoes, about 1kg/ 2.2lbs of them. Boil them until they are soft enough to stick a knife through, and then drain them, letting them cool.

While the potatoes are boiling, slice a medium sized onion, and saute it with 200g of lardons. (Lardons are small cubes of pork, if you don't have lardons, you can use pancetta, Canadian bacon, or regular old bacon as a substitute. And that poses a question to any of my Canadian readers... do you just call bacon, bacon, or do you call it Canadian bacon? I have always wanted to know that.)


While that is sauteing, butter a casserole dish and set aside. When the potatoes are cool enough, slice them, and cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of about half of them. Oh, and you can go ahead and turn on the oven now too if you'd like, 235°C/ 455°F.


When the onions are soft and the lardons have rendered their fat, top the layer of potatoes with half of them like so.


Throw the other half of the potatoes on top (maybe not 'throw', layer nicely).


Then add the last of the lardons and onions on top of that. And now it's time for the goodness... spoon dollops of crème fraîche across it.


I'm going to go ahead and tell you this now, this was not enough crème fraîche. After Gregory had tasted the finished Tartiflette, I asked him if there was anything about the recipe that I should tweak for next time and he said, more cream. So there you go, don't be stingy with the crème fraîche.


Le fromage... the pièce de résistance. Traditionally, Tartiflette calls for Reblochon cheese but if you can't get your hands on any of that, you can use Brie or a mixture of Gruyere and Muenster. Slice about 250g - 500g of it, depending on how cheesy you want to get (I used about 300g), and lay it across the top. (There are lots of debates about how it should be sliced; whether it should be sliced in wide pieces, rind on or off, but it's really up to you, after all, you're the one eating it.) If you'd like, you can go ahead and pour some white wine over it, but you don't have to, it's totally optional (I did. Of course I did.)

Pop it in the oven, sit down and relax for a bit with an apéro and let the Tartiflette get all golden and bubbly, about twenty minutes or so.


Serve it with a simple salad in a light vinaigrette, nothing heavy. The presence of greens on your plate will make you feel a lot less guilty about the pile of delicious carbs and sinful cheese and cream sitting next to it.


Et voila! Sit back and enjoy the scrumptiousness and the brownie points with a bottle of crisp white wine if you are so inclined, I know I am. Bon Appétit!


Bisous!
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Saturday, October 26, 2013

expat escapades {round 10}


It's been a month of milestones in expat world. From big birthdays to weddings, births, and anniversaries, it's all happening!

The best place to start today's round up is to start at the very beginning... life! Honey welcomed her brand new baby girl into the world earlier this month. And since little Oswin was born in Switzerland but lives in France, at only a couple of weeks old, she's already quite the traveler!

There were celebrations galore in England... Sarah turned thirty in London and celebrated with The Beatles (that's right, THE BEATLES... alright, so they were impersonators...  potatoes, potahtoes), while Jessica celebrated her wedding at Britain's oldest brewery. (How is that for a cool wedding venue?)
And in France, Danielle celebrated 5.5 years of blogging and traveling. (I love that Danielle celebrated a .5 milestone. I'm a huge fan of doing that. I threw myself a 30.5 birthday party onceScratch that, I meant a 29.5 birthday party. Whatever. Busted.)

Back to regular, old, non-celebratory real life... Megan is knee deep into the French immigration process (FUN!), which means sitting in class watching films about the French Revolution and learning all about French laws (FUN!) and Kim has been decluttering her basement in Paris. I know that decluttering a basement pretty much sounds like the dullest of the dull, but it's not when it results in the post: 'Absolute Necessities' For Moving to France (so pay attention all you future Francophiles, this post is for you).

Sticking to Paris... Shannon snapped the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero which she thinks is the best place to do so and judging from her photos, I think she may be right. And down the road, Ksam was having another lost in translation moment with her French husband (I actually don't know it it's down the road or not, but since both the Eiffel Tower and Ksam are in Paris, I'm going with it).   

. . .  (Those three dots to the left mean I couldn't think of a way to connect that last bit with this next bit.)

Michel took us on a tour of some spots where the film, A Good Year was shot. If you haven't seen it and you're a Russell Crowe fan, or a Provence fan you should, it's beautiful and not too far from The LPV. So watch it or better yet, come and visit and we'll go together.

Another movie spot I'd love to visit is Platfrom 9 and 3/4 from Harry Potter. Bonnie went and she and her family all took photos of themselves running into the wall with the suitcase loaded trolley. If I was a little kid, that would definitely have to be up there on my bucket list. (Who am I kidding? I'm not a little kid and it's up there.)

When Bonnie isn't pushing trolleys into train station walls, she's a Girl Gone International. If you'd like to be a Girl Gone International too, click here, and Bonnie will tell you all about it.


Bisous!
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

give me a break

How do you know when you need a break? Like, when is it time to take a step back from the desk/ kitchen sink/ lab/ or where ever your workspace happens to be, and step away?

Superbreak knows when it's time and when it is, they recommend taking a trip, like perhaps to London, or maybe even to Paris because lets face it, Paris is always a good idea. Three words: Treat. Yo. Self.

5 Ways to Tell it is Time to Get Away Infographic

So where would you treat yo self to?


Bisous!
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This post is brought to you by the good people of superbreak

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Behind the Photos VIII

Two of the best things about being an expat are going home (it's not that we dislike our new home or anything, it's just that when we go 'home', we really, really appreciate it) and having friends come to visit. This edition of Behind the Photos features both.

I visited my family in Dublin in May, 2010. I had gone for two weeks on my own without Gregory or Fifty to keep me company, but it was OK, I had Niece and Little Niece to entertain me. I was greeted with Hello Kitty artwork made especially for me (we heart hello kitty) and a bow for my hair made out of a Kleenex. Basically my heart melted and my womb jumped around a whole lot. Damn their sweet, cuteness. 


One of the reasons I was back in Dublin was to see Niece make her Communion. Rows and rows of girls in little white dresses and veils clutching their dainty purses and saying their vows. I was grateful I got to be there. Living far from home means that you miss these things more often than not. I missed Little Niece's Communion this past Spring and I'm gutted over it. However I did bribe her forgiveness with lots of French cookies when I saw her a couple of months after. I think it worked. 

One of my favorite things to do when I'm visiting my family, is to take the wee monkeys to the cinema. We usually see whatever 3D Pixar thing is on at the moment and stuff ourselves silly with too much popcorn and way too many sweets and then I return them to their mother, high on sugar. 

I went to the cinema with some friends as well, but this time instead of a sugar high, I got a Champagne one. The second Sex & the City movie had been released and the cinema was doing a special 'Girls Nite' showing that came with mini-bottles of Champagne and straws. Not a bad way to view a film let me tell you. 

This is my friend Texas Girl. Texas Girl, along with her mother, Kiki (you know, Ilene's sister), and another friend who we've dubbed, The Puma, drove from Sweden all the way down to Nice with only pre-printed Google Maps to guide them. That's hardcore. I met up with them on the Provence leg of their journey. It was the first time I had had people come to see me in France and I was beyond excited to show off my new home.

We had dinner in the charming village of Goult and I had the pleasure of introducing them to Pastis, Rosé, and Gregory. I'm not sure which they enjoyed the most but I have a feeling it's a toss-up between Gregory and the Rosé.

We went to Monaco to get better acquainted with our friend, Rosé (you know how sipping rosé outside the casino in Monte Carlo is one of my happy places) and to visit the church where Grace Kelly got married. She entered the church a Hollywood actress and walked out a Princess. Magical powers that church has.

Since we were already all the way over in Monaco, we decided to brave the sun showers, and hop on over to Italy for some gelato because why not, right? YOLO.


Bisous!
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P.S. I cannot believe I actually yolo-ed. Please forgive me. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head


// Since we don't have any plans for Halloween this year (Brother-in-Law is hosting a party again but is throwing it on November 1st and we already have plans for the 1st) other than watching the old cartoon version the Legend of Sleepy Hollow (it used to scare the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid), I've thrown myself headfirst into Thanksgiving plans. Last year was the warm up and this year is the real deal. I'm ready, but since I could always use some inspiration... what is your favorite Thanksgiving dish or tradition? Inquiring minds and all.

// Speaking of Sleepy Hollow... have you been watching the new TV show? It's bizarre but quirky and we're loving it. I grew up only a hop, skip and a jump from Sleepy Hollow so for me it's pure nostalgia, while Gregory is loving the fact that when I was a little girl, it was the headless horseman that fueled my nightmares.

// I've made a new rule for myself (sometimes I make up rules that I have to abide by because I'm a weirdo)... I'm only writing in cursive. I discovered that my cursive penmanship has gone right down the toilet and considering how much I prided myself on my cursive skills back in elementary school, my chicken scrawl was simply not acceptable. Back when I was in school (you know, when I walked there, in the snow, uphills, both ways), penmanship was a big deal. Is it still a big deal? I think it should be, so now I'm in self-imposed cursive camp.

// Last night we had a couple of drinks with Mr. & Mrs. Honey. It's been ages since we've seen them. And are you ready to hear something amazing... after four years here, I could actually understand Mr. Honey! OK, not everything he uttered in that super thick south of France accent of his, but like 75% and that's progress let me tell you. (Remember that time that I thought he was telling me that sheep brushed their teeth with mushrooms?)

// We're in the middle of another wonderful weekend of doing nothing much. After months of going pretty much non-stop; DublinSaintes-Maries-de-la-MerParisDevonLondonLyon, and multiple trips to Toulon, quiet weekends at home are much wanted and much needed. Basically I'm saying I'm old and homegirl needs a break.

// Since it's Sunday, I have to run and get my lunch on... we've got roast pork, garlic mashed potatoes, choux de Bruxelles (that's brussel sprouts en français but saying it in French makes me feel all kinds of fancy) and chocolate flan on the menu today. And of course cheese, lots and lots of cheese. What's new with you?


Bisous!
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Friday, October 18, 2013

mdr

[A little factoid for your Friday... mdr is the French equivalent of lol]

It's Friday y'all! Or, c'est vendredi y'all! (I have no idea how to say y'all in French, maybe tout le monde, yes, we'll go with tout le monde.)

C'est vendredi tout le monde!

Yes, that's better. (Can you tell I'm excited? I'm SO excited... there is a wine bar with delicious French nibbles and delicious French wine in my twelve hour from now future.)

Today I'm celebrating the fact that it's Friday and a beautiful perfectly crisp blue sky Autumny kind of Friday at that. And what better way to celebrate then with something that is making me happy at the moment, and I like to share things that make me happy with you guys. But because you're my crew and we're tight, I'm going to confess something too...

French TV and I aren't the best of friends. There, I said it. Honestly, I don't think it's got the most entertaining stuff happening on it in my opinion. (I'm stressing that it's MY opinion because I don't want the same thing to happen to me, that happened to this poor American writer in the comment section of this post after she dared to poke fun at France... mon dieu!)

However, lately I've been loving Le Petit Journal. It's basically France's answer to The Daily Show. The host even has salt and peppered hair à la Jon Stewart. (I'll admit that even though I've got a teensy crush on Mr. Stewart, his French counterpart is awfully cute too.)

via
But as cute as Monsieur Barthès is, the real reason I watch it is for Catherine and Liliane; two 'women' who gossip about what's going on in the gossip mags. They make me laugh so much that I decided I simply had to share them with you. The genius of Catherine and Liliana is that you don't have to know French to find them funny. So on this perfectly, crisp Autumn Friday, I give you the gift of laughter. (Feel free to laugh in French... mdr)

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo


Bisous!
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

expat escapades {round 9}


Around the World in Ninety Days.

(Of course I know that it's really supposed to be, Around the World in Eighty Days, but oops... oh well).

Since I post these expat escapade round-ups about every ten days, and this is the ninth, then it is kind of like, Around the World in 90 Days, I just wish I had thought of that for the last round-up because then it would have made more sense.

The expats in this latest round sure do get out there and explore, every one would make Jules Verne very proud I'm sure, with their thirst for wanderlust and adventure.

Take Lindsey for example, not only did she head to Germany to explore Oktoberfest, but she danced on the tables while she was there. Because why not?! It's Oktoberfest for heaven sake. If there is one festival where dancing on tables wouldn't be frowned upon, it would be Oktoberfest, right? (Actually I have no idea, I've never been to Oktoberfest, but dancing on the tables there seems like it would be an OK thing to do.)

Like for instance, one wouldn't dance upon tables at a Lantern Festival, would they? We'll have to ask Amanda about that. Amanda went to the Jinju Lantern Festival in South Korea and it looks like it was the most magical place to be. All of those brightly colored lanterns hanging from the sky and bobbing along in the river... pure magic!

Another place that is full of bright colors and oozes magic is The Oyster Box in Umhlanga, South Africa. Perched on the ocean with a red lighthouse looming next to it, The Oyster Box looks like the kind of place where all of your art deco dreams come true and Jenna got to enjoy it all over a long weekend. I for one can happily picture myself spending a day(s) lounging on one of the red and white striped lounge chairs (seriously, the striped lounge chairs alone were enough to make me jealous).

While Jenna made me jealous, Rachel made me homesick... for Dublin. Rachel was there for the TBEX conference and naturally she headed out to explore her surroundings. Her walking tour took her by Christ Church, Dublin Castle and Powerscourt, all places that I used to regularly pass by but of course hardly payed any attention to since it was merely everyday life (Note To Self: PAY ATTENTION).

One place that would definitely hold my attention would be Versailles (I WILL GET THERE ONE DAY) or any other French palace/ chateau kind place for that matter (while visiting châteaus, I like to swan about and pretend I'm a princess while Gregory and Fifty look on horrified). Molly spent the day touring Versailles while Danielle visited Château Vaux-le-Vicomte. I love France, you can't throw a rock without hitting a castle. And that's real life.

Cruising around Italy on the back of a Vespa, that's real life too (well if your name is Marissa and you live in Barletta it is). And stumbling upon some random, costumed marching band that's banging drums and setting off firecrackers for no particular reason, well that's real life in Provence for you. Just ask Martine. But what's definitely not Provence, is being invited to a housewarming party that's invitation boasts candy-infused shots and something called a 'blind test'. That's Paris. (If you want to find out what a 'blind test' is, then click over to Ella's post and she'll tell you.)


Bisous!
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Monday, October 14, 2013

L'anniversaire de Mr.London

"I know what I want to get Bumder for his birthday."

"You do! Good! What?"

"A speaker thing for his iphone. It's really good and really loud but it costs €200."

"WHAT?! No. Find something else."

"But he'll love it!"

"Don't care."

This was the conversation Gregory and I were having about Mr. London's birthday present (Gregory calls Mr.London, Bumder). I'm not making any of it up, Gregory actually wanted to spend €200 on his bumder's birthday present. ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS, especially if you consider this anniversary present disaster.

We ended up buying him a poker table top (well Gregory did) which considering they love playing cards together was quite a thoughtful present (again, please read this post about my anniversary present to understand why Gregory's thoughtfulness and thoroughness in regards to Mr.London's present left me stumped). And another one of Mr.London's friends bought him a nifty pair of glasses which I decided to steal for myself.

{NIFTY}
Unfortunately for Mr.London, he had to work on his birthday, so we thought it would be nice to go and cheer him on while he and the rest of the club battled Bayonne on his special day.

We headed to the Port for pre-match Mojitos (not Mr. London of course, that would have been silly). I know I've said it before, but sitting on the port, looking out at the Mediterranean and all of the boats bobbing up and down makes me feel like I'm on holiday, which I love, so imagine my delight when I discovered that our Mojitos were being served up in parrot glasses with a candy garnish! Who needs a tiny umbrella when you have a parrot and bonbons?! Not me. (BRING ON THE CABANA BOYS!)

As easy as it would have been for me to sit on the port all day, eventually we had to say goodbye to my new parrot friend and venture across the road to Le Stade and watch the birthday boy do his work which would have been easier if these wee scamps weren't in the way. (Actually I didn't mind one bit. The little blonde one is trouble with a capitol T and watching him wreak havoc was almost as entertaining as the match itself.)

Sometimes I wish I could use the exercise bike while I'm watching the match too.
I for one never pass up an opportunity to multitask.

After Toulon's victory (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU MR.LONDON!) we walked back across to the port and upon seeing a ferry boat docked and all lit up, I did a little happy shimmy (makes me feel like I'm on vacation even more). I tried to capture it for you guys so you too could feel my excitement, but unfortunately, photography is not my friend.
{FAIL}

All of Mr.London's friends were there to help him blowout his birthday candles on not one, but two birthday cakes! And bonus, they were all wearing matching outfits which is pretty much cuteness overload.


I got to talking with a new player from New Zealand and all the while had a niggling feeling that I knew him from somewhere, and then, after a couple of minutes it dawned on me who he was... he played in this match during the last Rugby World Cup that had made me really angry, like Incredible Hulk angry. And I remembered him in particular making me really angry, so in a very un-ladylike, un-Sara Louise manner, I turned to him in mid-conversation and said, "Hey - I know who you are! And I don't like you!" How's that for lovely, ladylike behavior? Personally, I blame the parrot.


Bisous!
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P.S. Just in case any of you are worried that I set off an international incident (because you know that's something that could happen to me... Next on the 10 o'clock news, an American woman in France was arrested late last night after starting a bar brawl when she attacked a Kiwi man), he thought it was funny. 
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