June 28th, 2010 comments
Le rhododendron commence à fleurir
Le dipladenia en fleur
Un verre de Rosé - bien frais!
Strawberry Crème Fraiche Ice Cream
Inspired by a recipe found here (which was adapted from David Lebovitz).
I’ve substituted a bit of crème fraiche which gives an ever so slight (and rich) tang… yum!
- 1 pound ripe strawberries, washed and hulled
- 1 TBl Chambord
- 1-1/4 cups sugar
- 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 cup whole milk
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup crème fraiche
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Make the strawberry puree: In a blender, puree the strawberries until completely smooth. Strain the berry puree through a fine mesh sieve into a glass bowl, taking care to extract all of the strawberry juice. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar and Chambord, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make an ice bath: Fill a large bowl with several inches of ice water (half ice half water). Set a smaller metal bowl of at least a 6 cup capacity in the ice water. Pour 1/2 cup of the heavy cream into the inner bowl. This will help cool down the custard. Set a fine mesh strainer on top.
Make the custard: Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan mix the remaining 1 cup of cream with the milk, the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. Heat the mixture over medium high heat stirring ocassionally, until the sugar dissolves and tiny bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan. In a steady stream, pour half of the warmed cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.
Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly until the custard thickens slightly and measures 175°F to 180°F on an instant read thermometer. Do not let overheat or boil or it will curdle.
Immediately strain the custard into the cold cream in the ice bath.
Cool the custard: Stir the custard frequently over the ice bath until an instant rean thermometer measures 70°F. Add the strawberry puree and mix well.
Chill and freeze the custard: Chill the custard mixture in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove custard from refrigerator and stir in 1/2 cup of crème fraiche and the lemon juice. Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. I used a simple Donvier hand crank model and it filled it to the brim but worked beautifully… It’s sooooo good!
June 12th, 2010 comments
still enjoying house guests… and soaking up the green.
It’s vide-grenier day tomorrow in Apt and Oppede. I’m hoping for sunshine and hidden treasure. Stay tuned!
June 8th, 2010 comments
morning view from our upper terrace… Mt Ventoux looks on as a field of poppies bursts into flames.
May 5th, 2010 comments
It’s time to thin the fruit on the apricot tree. I dread this simple garden task. Who am I to edit nature? I stare at the freshly plucked potential in the bottom of my bucket and I’m overcome with a sense of remorse.
Gardening in our area of Provence resembles a form of vegetal warfare. If you’ve ever seen a plane tree hacked to knarly nubs or the local fruit trees awkward skeletal frames, you understand the severity with which we coax “appropriate” growth. I have to wonder about the natural world’s willingness to reward such intervention with a beautiful canopy not to mention a sweet crop. Even the formal French garden design I admire relies heavily on taming and shaping the otherwise wild.
Weeding, pruning the dead wood, thinning the excess fruit, all necessary and beneficial, but in my hands these chores have more of a 60’s live and let live vibe. Come to think of it, there’s a tie die T shirt in my dresser drawer and I remember my daughter saying something about it being good gardening attire….
May 1st, 2010 comments
brocanting and blogging have been on the back burner for the past 2 weeks. We’ve had our first true taste of spring here in Provence and we decided it was time to attack the north side of our garden. This has been the space that’s housed the stacks of construction materials, the cement mixer, the piles of debris. We never counted it as livable outdoor space, we thought of it more as a buffer. Surprise surprise! What I love about a remodel project is that sometimes a feature you’ve completely overlooked morphs into a little gem.
Our hands are dirty hands and our backs are sore…. the gravel has yet to be delivered and there’s a bit more planting to do, but the view from my kitchen window already makes me smile!
work in progress...
April 26th, 2010 comments
If you’re visiting Provence this summer you’ll more than likely want to spend a morning at one of the weekly village markets. One of my all time favorites is in Lourmarin on Friday mornings.
The village is achingly picturesque: colorful history, a Renaissance castle, lovely cafes for people watching, Côte Bastide, a great antique store and the quintessential weekly market. See you on Friday!
April 15th, 2010 comments
The path from the village that leads to our garden dead ends at our garden gate. The tourists love this little path as it offers an unobstructed view of the Luberon valley. And being curious tourists they’re equally tempted by what lies beyond our gate. Last spring during the construction on our house the gate was often left unlocked. One day a man appeared just outside our house followed by a group walking up our garden path when I heard my son’s voice politely explain that this was private property. But the trespasser wouldn’t leave. I could hear my son’s French become more animated and finally the gentleman walked away in a huff stating that it wasn’t posted as private property and that we were infringing on his rights by denying him access. Unfortunately this wasn’t the first episode but we swore it would be the last, so we put up a very unattractive screen on the open ironwork gate and a sign, entrée interdite… entry forbidden. The approach to the gate looks so unappealing I can’t imagine it arousing curiosity, but the tourists are back and there were two heads bobbing above the gate today, so I need a new strategy.
Segway brocante…. where I saw a vintage sign that might help, Chien Mechant -Mean Dog- but then I would need the dog and that’s when I came across the photo above on Peter Sohier’s website. If only the dog were mean! But it made me smile and it gave me the idea to introduce you to Peter and Lucy’s business.
When I’m at the deballage -professional antique fair- in Avignon I always stop by their stand, they set up outside in the large parking lot. Peter and Lucy’s antiques are often garden inspired and have a sense of humor. Here are some of their current offeringings. They add to their site often and you can add your name to their email list to be notified of updates. They will also arrange for shipping to the US or work with your transporter if you’re sending a container. www.petersohier.com
March 22nd, 2010 comments
tucked inside the heart of l’Isle sur la Sorgue is the home and shop of Odile Bouscarat. As you pass through her treasure filled courtyard, you’ll see the shop in the back. Look at everything, because you never know what you’ll find hidden in a corner. Odile favors the 18th century and doesn’t mind when pieces show their age. Her displays always have the right amount of whimsy in the mix. As I walk around my own house I see just how many of Odiles treasures have made their way home with me and never left. Please visit her if you’re in town and email me if you need directions.
La Petite Curieuse is the name of her shop and as the name implies it’s a Little Curiosity. Today it was a petite 18th century chair and a demi lune table (she says she bought with me in mind) that tempted me. Just the right patina, just the right amount of age. Arrrggghhh, what’s a short on space antique lover to do? I’m not quite sure yet, but I’ve been plotting ever since I got home.
March 18th, 2010 comments
I love looking at real estate, I always have. I particularly love looking at real estate in our area of France. These pale stone houses are irresistible. Renovated or ruin I love the color, the texture the unevenness, the idiosyncrasies. In any case it’s the ruin that sings loudest to me, the neglected property dans son jus. Every visit presenting me with a design dilema that I must solve to my own satisfaction, even if it’s only in my head.
When we first ventured into the housing market in Provence we were in for a few surprises. I can’t speak for all areas of the country, but in our neck of the woods there seems to be an unwritten code which prohibits tacky (handy) ‘For Sale’ signs and the sharing of information. Our familiar multiple listing service is nonexistent. Individual realtors show their individual (or their groups) listings and no others. Agents Immobliers, as they’re called in French, are very protective of their properties which means that each and every realtor might have something different to show you so you’re wise to visit each and every realtor to find out. It takes forever.
Having experienced life in a small village, we thought it was time for a house in the countryside. The green acres of France. So I called a realtor friend and he said he had just what we were looking for. What realtor doesn’t say that? He gave me the details and it sounded almost too good to be true. Location, price, size all better than expected. He said there was some work to be done which was music to my ears.
We approached the house on a small gravel road. Even with the shutters closed it was inviting.
There was a fig tree in the courtyard outside the kitchen and I imagined our al fresco meals under that tree. I saw the future swimming pool, the gardens, the sculpting studio and yes, I have a very active imagination.
Ok, so it was a little rough on the inside……but I could see beyond that.
Don’t you see the possibilities? In French we say tout est possible, which means anything’s possible and indeed it is or was, until our friend casually mentioned that the vineyards and the fruit trees and even the land that immediately surrounded the house didn’t actually belong to the house and something about a pesky little problem with the road. You see, it too belonged to someone else but normalement (normally?) we would be allowed to use it. The only road to the house. Huge red flag.
Later that day (I’m not kidding) a rainbow appeared and from where we live in our little hilltop village it looked as if a pot of gold and our future good luck and happiness were pointing straight at the new house of my design dreams. My husband assured me that it was the universe’s way of saying pit (not pot) of gold, as in pit of money, money pit……you get the picture and needless to say we didn’t get the house.
March 14th, 2010 comments
bernard and Isabelle are two of my favorite dealers at the street brocante in l’Isle sur la Sorgue on Sundays. They set up stands next to one another. You’ll recognize Bernard by his straw hat and Isabelle surrounded by her collection of confit pots.
Today Bernard and I were talking about his personal collection of antiques. Most everything I admired in his display had come from his own home. He’s decided to edit and edit severely. “It’s time” he said. I nodded, adding that when it comes to the love of old things I think there are two personalities; the Finders and the Keepers. I fall into the Finder camp and though I swing towards the Keepers every once in a while, I’m not comfortable there for long. Bernard agreed.
I admire the Keepers for their ability to hold onto the things they love. And I’m oh so thankful for the Keepers, because their passion allows for Finders to keep finding. The last couple of years have been tough for the antique dealers in this part of France. The buyers have stopped coming. American buyers especially. For Finders like me it feels good to support my dealer friends by buying from them and it feels good again to see the pleasure the objects bring to their new owners. My place is in the middle. And it seems for the moment that Bernard’s might be too.