Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I have had a recipe for Elder Blossom Fritters for nigh on eighteen years, and never got around to making them. But yesterday the sky was a bright, clear blue and the blossoms were in perfect bloom... the temptation was great.

I whipped up the batter and made a blueberry sauce, snipped large pregnant flowers from the bush and set the table in the backyard.

The Russian got the oil hot, and we took turns frying and dusting them with powdered sugar. Only... there were SO many blossoms and SO much batter left that we just kept - on - eating.

I cannot tell you enough what a bad idea that was. The kids stopped after one or two fritters, but we had at least seven each. And all last night - and all this morning - we have been holding our middles as if we'd swallowed rocks.

I got up early and went for a run in the hopes of a little weight relief, rode bikes to school with my daughter in yet another scramble for absolution... but alas! There is nothing to be done but to just wait it out. And learn a lesson in piggishness.


My generally light-footed Tarzan says he can't wait to get home and eat tea and jell-o for lunch ... his last words this morning being, "I think that after all they ought to be eaten as a delicacy. Just one flower each."

Ya think?

Monday, May 30, 2011

I nearly forgot ... a very happy Memorial Day to you!

On Saturday, two of the best floor ball players I know battled it out at a friendly tournament ... and we watched on as they lost because of unfair-play.

What do you say to a couple of kids who've worked hard to play fair but have just been cheated out of first place by someone who didn't?

I listened as the fathers spoke to the team and was inwardly proud, the recurring theme being fair-play... play to have a good time... play to be proud of the game... don't stoop to that level.

Their attitudes were solid and sound despite the disappointment, and I say they're the winners this time around. First place.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's time to make elder blossom syrup.

First you take your favorite basket with you and snip twelve or so blossoms off the bush (I use maybe twenty blossoms - I like it strong).

Place them in a large and lovely bowl (lovely for your benefit) and pour four liters of boiling water over them. Add the juice of four lemons. Cover and let sit for two days, stirring occasionally.

Clip cheesecloth to the sides of the biggest pot you have, and pour the infusion through it. Add four kilos of sugar and bring to a boil, stirring now and then.

While you're waiting for it to boil you need to do two things:

Boil water and pour it over and into your sparkling clean bottles.
Have a glass of wine (again, for your benefit).

As soon as your syrup is boiling, have muscle man pour it into the hot, empty bottles. Close.

This will stay good for six months to a year. How to drink it? Pour a little in a glass and add ice-cold water to taste.
Served in a martini glass, it easily replaces an alcoholic beverage for those who prefer staying away from the hooch.

Friday, May 27, 2011

la simplicité rend la vie si belle

Einfachheit macht das Leben so schön

(c'est juste mon allemande?)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My eldest and I were on a reconnaissance mission yesterday, spying on our neighbors' sizable "trash". This is what we loaded into our car:

I'm awaiting the day I have a vineyard of my own and can celebrate the Vendanges with baguette and aged cheese.

What does hubby think of that? He's already planted our first vine...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Perspective changes everything

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Have mysteries ever happened to you? Have cool stone walls narrowed into dark passage ways only to open out into brighter corridors?

All the while I walk, I can't help but hope that the holy rood is set firmly over the edifice that is my life. And if I should be summoned to leave these walls behind...

post script: I just re-read this and think it sounds utterly depressing. Sorry. It was not meant to be! By leaving the walls behind, I was thinking more along the lines of "being called to greater but more challenging things"! :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Yesterday, I co-hosted my first-ever bridal shower for a bride named Caroline.

As I arranged the flowers on Saturday night, it quickly became evident that I hadn't purchased enough paeonia. And the stores close at 4! I remembered having seen a bush of the same color just down our street, and in a burst of un-Swisslike boldness, I grabbed my wallet and walked to a neighbor's house with two kids in tow.

"Hi... I'm your neighbor...pleased to meet you... I'm throwing a Bridal Shower... no, you don't know what that is, but .... I've run out of flowers and... may I please buy some of yours?"

Her generosity was moving; out of her house she buzzed like a worker bee, armed with shears and a smile overflowing with the solidarity of a true voisine.

Naturally, she would take no payment - but pictures are on the way!

A word for the Silver Spoons. There was once a woman named Ida. She lived across the street from where I live now, after having spent a lifetime as a governess for wealthy families. Over the years she had saved and poured her earnings into a set of silver for her hope chest... only no one had ever asked for her hand in marriage. She died alone... and there was no one to inherit her silver.

The silver fell into the hands of an executor, who eventually asked me if I wanted it. Did I ever!

And so, every time I use her silver (still brand new) I say a word for Ida. I tell her how beautiful it is, and thank her for it; I compliment her choice of pattern, and remember her.

Three toilet paper brides conclude an afternoon of feminine good-wishing. A lovely life for you, Caroline... showers of wishes and hope!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

We were sitting outdoors in the early dusk finishing off half a watermelon when my family asked me... "Why don't you post pictures anymore?"

Why, indeed.

Last week I was chiding a friend for letting the stress of his daily doings fizzle the life out of him when he asked me... "You mean like your work is doing to you?"

Cornered on every side. Drat.

I looked up to let the evening sunlight flood and rinse my eyes and saw this:

Hanger hook caught in spider web. What are the odds? And I thought to myself... you are the hook this time, caught in a web you didn't ask for; but you are letting it fizzle the life out of you.

Love came around me tonight - honest, unmistakable love.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My absence from gallimaufry is the upward climb you see here ... too many changes and conflict in my daily doings have me climbing a twisting staircase, carefully treading as I go round and round, gripping the handrail lest I slip and fall. I am ascending slowly and hope to come out into the sunlight soon enough. Until then ... I will be absent but am watching you all from where I sit. Warm hugs.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My Russian's cousin lives out on a farm deep in the surrounding hills. She had come out of hiding yesterday to buy this year's flowers for her window boxes.

All smiles and warmth, she never fails to warm my heart. We compared notes on what we were picking out, talked about shady spots versus full sun, lice on petunias, the courage to select an unexpected and as yet undiscovered specimen.

She is a hard-core farmer (I have great respect for hard-working rural women) ... but never makes me feel like the gardener en herbe that I really am.

My compliments to a farmer's wife who is utter elegance and grace.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Would you like to hear a little Mom-rant from the other side of the world?

This morning... after a long and arduous meal of bread and Nutella (oh...such a hard food to choke down, too) s-o-m-e-b-o-d-y put the bread back in the bread box.

"Is there any more bread for dinner tonight?" I ask.

"Yeah, there's lotsa bread left."

After having spent 30 minutes grinding cabbage for cole-slaw (I am such a nice mom sometimes), slicing tomatos and mozarella for salad (again... exceedingly nice) and setting the table in the sunlit kitchen for an inviting family meal, I opened the doors to the cabinet and rolled up the bread box lid. This... is what I found.

Lotsa bread for dinner...

The thing is, I popped the pathetic piece of torn (or is it chewed?) bread into our bread plate to take my spiteful picture... and then noticed what was written inside!

I guess I will start praying for my twelve loaves...
A bit of beautiful in an ordinary life.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An entire Saturday afternoon in the kitchen ... and this is the result. Not one of these could ever melt the way my heart did.

Sweet gimeli-girl.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

As I pass by typical farmhouses in the Franches Montagnes, I am reminded of Seamus Heaney and the poignant insight that stems from his rural upbringing.


Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Visiting a friend's private wine cellar, I couldn't help but think of the people I love: the aged bottles on the shelves of my heart. Thank you for your kind comments yesterday. :)

Tea, coffee, reeses, almond JOY... you warm my heart!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

There are times in my life of ex-patriotism when I feel a deep love for the place despite myself... views such as this inspire that.

But as an ex-patriot you learn to live in a kind of surreal waiting. You wait all day for your family and friends to wake up in the west, and when they finally do, you must remember that they are just starting their day while you are ending yours. Inevitably, you wait up late into the night for them to have their lunch break or get off work so you can call or communicate with them in some way. And then you go to bed, and wake up the next day only to start the whole process over.

You wait for an English television show to come on the air... you wait for Reese's to come to the stores... you wait for a box, a letter, a connection with the person you used to be - with what, in your mind, is the real world.

Think I'm crazy? Perhaps just a bit. But though the grass is definitely greener on my side of the hill, your side sometimes looks quite comforting nonetheless.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Wildflowers for you...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's time to make Dandelion Honey! Little girls gather baskets full of them out under a warm sun.

You need about 250 grams of dandelion flower to make this recipe. That means about one basketful. So, in order to get this...

You need to do this!

We cut off the stems and the thickest green part of the head. You can easily leave a bit of green on... perfectionists should NOT make this otherwise you will go stark raving mad!

In a large pot, drop your 250 grams of dandelion.


2.5 liters of water
the juice from 3 oranges and 2 lemons

And cook for 1.5 hours. Strain with cheesecloth.

Pour back into your washed-out pot, add 1:1 sugar and cook for one hour. Before boiling, I add fruit pectin to help thicken things up a bit.

After it's been boiling long enough (and you've had your feet up on the couch with a glass of strawberry wine ... waiting) pour it into sterilized jars and Voilà!