No Graceful Way About It

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Beaches of Nice

Bonjour!  I am sorry there is no photo or video of me trying to walk on these rocks while attempting to go against the waves and up an embankment (not really).  I sat in my chair for a good hour watching everyone tackling this problem before I felt courageous enough to tackle it myself.  It is easier getting into the Mediterranean Sea than getting out.  And if you don’t have those ugly water shoes on, it is that much harder.  I thought it was most enjoyable and entertaining watching cool Frenchmen attempt this with such suave only to bite the rocky beach.  I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself.

I walked to the beach only to retreat.  I was going to hurt myself.  And I was maybe a little vain.  I couldn’t help but also think about the book A Year In Provence“where Peter Mayle writes

at any giving moment during any day in the month of August there are 5000 people making pipi in the sea…who would be a fish?

It was only September.
Later I carefully and smoothly walked to the toilette trying to keep my unattainable american je ne sais quoi only to see that my face was as white as a sheep’s because my Neutrogena Sunblock hadn’t blended in… C’est la vie.  So much for trying to be cool!

There are some pretty nice restaurants in Nice along the water.  There is a big Italian influence because they are so close to the border.  There are lots of pizzas and ceaser salads.  The dressings are made with fresh anchovy and large pieces of grated Parmesan cheese.  There is also a lot of fresh fish that comes in from the ocean.  Everything I have had has been great except my hotel breakfast.  I was surprised to see all the fruit that looked like it came from a can and drenched in syrup.  Bleeck!  You can judge most places by the amount of French people siting outside eating, the more the better.

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La cappuccino

My favorite dessert has been home-made ice-cream and sorbet.  One of my first purchases will be a professional grade ice cream maker when I get back.  I’ve had sorbet made with Greek yogurt and lemon that gives you a wonderful tangy taste.  I’ve had delicious vanilla bean ice cream with fresh espresso poured over it and topped with fresh whipped cream.   They can be served in little tea cups with just a small scoop, unlike the photo.  As always, fresh ingredients are what make the difference in good and delectable.

Traveling on to my next adventure!  Au revoir!

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Petit Pavot Biscuit

IMG_5670It is 2:30am here in France.  I can not tell if it is the late night petite café or the excitement I am having over the most glorious dinner that I have eaten.  We traveled about 30 minutes outside of Vaison-la-Romaine to a small town called St. Cecile Les Vignes.  After a couple of wrong turns my school mate from Patricia’s cooking class safely drove us to the wonderful restaurant Campange Vignes Gourmandises.

I would like to first say, a woman, who I believe is the chef’s wife, was the most kind French woman I have met thus far.  As we all know, my french is terrible.  Her English wasn’t perfect but she took the time to explain to me what she thought was the best thing on the menu when I asked her what she thought I should get.  I agreed with her choice and got the lamb for my main course.  It was by far the best and most perfectly cooked lamb I have ever put into my mouth.  I am still trying to figure out how exactly he made it so moist and also added those delicious roasted garlic and vegetables.  The kind woman said the lamb was from the region and I am sure that it played a role in the freshness that the meat gave.  It was divine.

What also struck me as devine were these perfect little, what I will call, Small Poppy Seed Biscuits.  They were brought out at the beginning of our meal with some olives.  These little biscuits where what I think all southerners are trying to perfect when we make biscuits.  They were the size of a quarter, they were moist with butter and sharp with parmesan cheese, and light with the right touch of kneading.  These same words rang true from last week’s eating while in California’s gardens.  Was I still in heaven?  I think so, just on the other side of heaven’s earth.

At the end of the meal, I couldn’t help myself.  I had to ask for the recipe and if not, could I have a bag of those little biscuits to take back to my apartment?  To my astonishment, the chef was obliged to give me the recipe.  He had no more biscuits, of course, for me to take home, because why would any be left?  They were that good.

I must share this with all of my devoted readers.  How can I keep something this good to myself?   I haven’t made them, as I am still traveling but how hard can it be?  Just remember to use fresh ingredients and the best butter and cheese that you can find.   I’ll let you know how mine comes out when I return.  When I do get this down, they will most definitely be on the menu!  

Ingredients

1oog parmesan

100g flour

100g salted butter

25g poppy seeds (could also use sesame seeds)

1 egg yolk

Directions

Mix the first four ingredients by hand and when incorporated, mix in your egg yolk.  Make little balls with the dough and place in an oven that has been preheated to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Simple and delicious just the way we like things.

At the end of the meal, I did ask for my petit café with dessert.  Note to self, the french do NOT take their coffee with dessert.  That comes afterwards, making yet another course.

Bon Appetit!

My GPS Guardian Angel

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Patricia Wells – Monday Lunch

I have flown for over 8 hours, been on a train from Paris to Avignon and rented a Fiat that I am driving to Vaison la Romaine.  Not only am I unsavy on technological stuff but I don’t speak any french.  I am really just now getting comfortable saying Bon jour and Merci.  So when I set up the GPS to guide me 40 miles to this beautiful place that I can’t pronounce, I was a little frazzled.  I just began doing everything the GPS said to do.  She directed me in with no problems.  She even spoke english!  I am forever grateful GPS Angel.

When I say, I hope I make it back home in two weeks, I really hope to be coming home.   If for some reason I am not home when I should be, please know I am lost.  Please call reinforcements.  I must look like a deer in headlights but frankly, I don’t give a damn.  I am having the best time and meeting some of the most wonderful people.  This experience has already surpassed what I could have imagined.  Tonight, I dined with 10 of the most amazing people from all over the United States, Canada and France.  Patricia and Walter Wells are two of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met but yet they exude brilliance and authenticity.  I want to absorb every word they speak like a sponge.  I love the fact that they are teaching these cooking classes as a team.  Both of them used to be journalists which I also find so magnificent.  Another one of my own aspirations that one day I will write something worth reading.  HA!   For now, I will do it for fun!

One of the things we all have in common here at Patricia’s  is the love of great food.   And, we get to sit under the Provençal Stars with a breeze of the Mistral and bottles of fabulous wine and talk about how we all came to this one spot in Chantanduc.  One of the students said what I was thinking – “it is like our souls have known one another and came here to congregate under the stars”.  This whole experience really is spectacular.

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Selfie in the Fiat

I personally wish that I could freeze frame moments because I don’t want to forget or miss any of this experience.  It is more than I could have wished.  I am super proud to say, I am doing it even though I have doubted my decision.  I have felt I couldn’t afford it, that I couldn’t get away from the girls, that I couldn’t leave my cooking in the states.  The list was long but I didn’t listen to the nah sayer in my mind (and some who said it to me) because I am doing it.

I can’t imagine how foolish I look here in Vaison la Romaine trying to pronounce anything in French.   But everyone has been so helpful and kind.  A father even hopped on his daughter’s bike as his family was walking and he led me to the driveway of Patricia’s home.  Her driveway is almost a mile long.  And, don’t believe a word people say about snobby french.  They may be in Paris but they aren’t here in Vaison la Romain.  Again, warm hearts all around.

I want all the Mom’s and women that may be reading this to please give yourself something wonderful.  Whether it is a trip by yourself for a weekend, a week trip with your significant other, a two-week trip with your children, a month summer trip with all the family.  This trip took three years to make happen and the planning and anticipation of the trip was just as much fun as the trip.  I know I am a better mother and person for it.  Not to mention, a better cook.  Here’s to saying  “Life is too short, I am doing this!”   Au Revoir!

 

 

Heaven on Earth

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Sonoma County

The saying “Ive died on gone to heaven” keeps coming into my mind. When we arrived in California, the air was the first thing to take my breath away.  It is so clean and crisp in San Francisco.  It brought me to the thought of if we are stuck in a place where we don’t experience anything more than the four walls around us, we may only think that those four walls are all that exist.  When I was growing up in the small town of LaGrange, Georgia, I didn’t know what else was out in the world.  LaGrange was a lovely place to grow up but it is also very sheltered from other parts of the country not to mention, the world.  My father wanted me to be close to home when I left for college.  I could have traveled over two states to Mississippi (I know, crazy far) to attend school but one of the reasons I chose not to was because my Dad didn’t want me so far away.  I really didn’t want to be far away from them either out of fear.  But, I remember vividly my first trip past the Mason Dixon line.  I had traveled to Nantucket and we were at a cute little restaurant in the town of Nantucket but, the waitress was from Switzerland.  I began a conversation with her and she explained to me how she and many of her friends traveled every summer over to Nantucket to work.  My eyes grew big at this new thought.  That thought was – there are so many beautiful places to see and experience in this world and there is nothing to be afraid of.  How simple is the thought?  This thought had never occurred to me and it isn’t something that can be taught, only experienced.  People are mostly kind and generous no matter where you go.  I feel lucky and grateful to have learned this.  I do know, not all of us get to travel to far away places, but if we can, I recommend it.  If anything, it teaches us to appreciate our home that we return to.

We began driving north on “the 101”  into the Alexander Valley.  The view alone is spectacular.  Our destination was a beautiful estate on a vineyard that is over 5,000 acres.  There really is nothing like it that I have seen.  In my mind, this is what heaven would be like.  Your eyes could look out in every direction and see beautiful rolling hills, blue sky, white clouds, and green grape vines.  The vegetable garden is probably 4-6 acres large with every food imaginable growing.  There are very few bugs because of the dry air.  We pulled strawberries that were the deepest red, different varieties of pears, peaches, and apples that were the sweetest, most flavorful, juicy fruits to ever come into my mouth.  I never understood the love of figs until I ate one from a fig tree and added a little almond butter and dark chocolate.  My eyes and my mouth are watering with the joy these simple things brought to me.  I want to cry with joy now as I write about it on a plane back home to Atlanta.  It was and is such a special place.  We broke off leaves of dinosaur kale and ate them right on the spot. They weren’t so bitter that you needed something to wash it down.  They were refreshing and warm with the taste of the sun that was just hitting it.  I believe we can have this in Georgia.  It inspires me to crusade for farm to table food and better food in our lunch rooms for our children.  There is no reason why we cannot have more of this here.

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Everything tangible was so heavenly, but what really hit me to be so angelic, were the people.  We were in Northern California for a wedding.  I had never experienced a wedding so beautiful before.  And I don’t mean beauty with the eyes, even though everything was beautiful to my eyes.  I am talking about two people, whom I had never met, exuding love to each other and to all those who had come to share with them their love for each other.  It was amazing.  When the female minister spoke, it was so soothing and more like a meditation than a service.  The wind that blew in the air and rustled in the trees while the couple made their own vows was like a whisper from god blessing them and all of us lucky enough to share in their moment.
There was also the family we stayed with during our visit.  Tara can make you feel as though you had known her for a lifetime.  She has this beautiful way of showing you a comfort and a feeling of being right at home 3,000 miles away from it.  She must have had a thousand other things on her mind and exhausted from being up all night with her little ones,  but she never showed it.   She inspired me to be a better woman, mother, partner and friend.

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Sweetness 

All of this experience, the vision, the tastes, the warm hearts, it is what heaven on earth is to me.  I was lucky enough to experience it.  This, I will bring back with me to Atlanta.  This, I look forward to sharing with all of you.

There is no recipe for this.  Here is to the simple tastes of eating right from the garden, to the mouth, and straight to the heart.  Cheers!

The Smallest Cell is Smiling, Let’s Start With That!

Finished Juice

Fresh Juice

Do you ever just find yourself wanting to get to the finish line, only to start all over again?  It has many names – Rat Race, Daily Grind, Treadmill, Vicious Cycle…  Arianna Huffington quoted Alan Watts in her book Thrive stating this very dance.

No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along or that the whole object of playing is to reach the finale.  The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it.  It is the same, I feel with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them.

The majority of our lives are spent doing the mundane of driving to and from work, driving to and from school, cooking this meal, cleaning up after that meal, snuffing out that fire at work, vacuuming up the dog hairs, cleaning the ring around the toilette, drinking this cup of coffee to get up, and drinking this glass of wine to wind down.  Oh, it feels so tedious.  But this is life.  This is our story and how we play out our story is of most importance.  It isn’t the begining or the end.  It is what is in the middle.

As I make my fresh juice this morning I am reminded of how much I love this life I am living.  As I drink the juice, and feel it traveling down into my body, I can feel my cells singing with joy.  They are alive and happy.  What we put in our body is so important.  We are handed so many things in our lives that are either joyful or sorrowful.  It is constant, the yin and yang.

So many times I hear painful stories in life.  We can not avoid it, but how we live during it is key.  Let’s build our foundation on the sweetest simpliest taste of fruits and veggies getting soaked into our body.  We can all do this simple task.  This way when the going gets tough and the music is difficult to hear, our foundation of fresh goodness can kick in to support our bodies to dance on. It is more difficult to dance when we are sick and our bodies don’t want to function at all.

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Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Juicing

Ingredients

2 Fresh Peaches pitted and halved or apples cut with out seeds

1/2 cup carrots

2 celery stalks

1/2 jalapeno

1/2 cucumber

1 inch fresh ginger root

1 lime

Directions

Place all your ingredients one at a time into your juicer except the lime.  After all your fruits and veggies have been juiced, squeeze the lime on top and stir together to mix all the ingredients to get the perfect blend of sweetness from the fruit and spice from the jalapeno and ginger.  Feel free to mix it up a bit by adding spinach and kale,  or omit the jalapeño if it is too spicy for you.  During the summer months peaches are great but now that fall is approaching,  apples are in season and are perfect for juicing.  Sometimes I only have an apple, carrot, and ginger in the fridge so that may be all I add to my juice and it is still delightful.

Can you feel your cells smile?  Start your day off with this great foundation and let the music soar throughout the day.  Cheer’s to living!