A Travellerspoint blog

Today it is 35 degrees

yesterday it was higher. I'm happy. Everyone else is suffering.

sunny 35 °C

And in just 4 weeks I get to do some travelling with friends !

Posted by Madeline84 16:44 Archived in France Comments (0)

Just what i'm feeling right now

i'm a little fed up

rain 20 °C

So this could be the first time i am writing in full what i am thinking right now and not giving a description of the week's events. I was writing this in an email to a friend and then it ended up being one of the most accurate accounts of my thoughts so i thought i'd put it here. It's quite a long whinge, not really important and maybe tomorrow i'll wish i didn't put it all down. But right now i feel like venting and recording one's current feelings and thoughts is one purpose of a blog so here you go.

And i just need to vent bigtime for a minute or few: [ now that i've written this i'm going to copy it onto my blog so feel free to not bother reading ahead!]
I'm more than a little, lets say 'frustrated'/'annoyed'/ or maybe bordering on 'pissed off' right now. i feel like i'm going to quite a lot of effort to cook things for dinner that everyone will eat but isn't the same old repetoire and i'm at the point where i feel like i just shouldn't bother. the last two nights for example - Thiursday i did 'crudites' which is something they have in the warm weather, basically just a variety of things (boiled egg, tuna, corn and asparagus from a can, chickpeas) all put separately so everyone can take what they like and dress with sauces or vinagrette. [ and i like because its healthy and not covered in anything]. Nadine and Frederic didn't have lunch so they were hungry so cooked pasta to have with. thats fine i just ate what i wanted. [Oh and Nadine decided at the last minute that Antonin would stay at his Grandparents and if i had known that before i would have made something interesting like a tomato, asparagus and goats cheese tart since Antonin doesn't like cheese and carries on like a 2year old if its put in front of him].
And even though Nadine constantly says to me that the kids have to eat/taste whatever's given to them, whenever i do make something they don't really like (and pasta, tomato sauce and ham is about all they consistently like) Nadine has to comment that "they would have eaten if...[insert amendment/big changes here]..." which to me seems pointless/stupid/and frustrating to tell me later what i should have made when she's told me before to make whatever i want.

So then tonight i make a quiche. everyone likes quiche but normally she just does a lorraine, ie ham and bacon bits (no cheese). So i think we have a lot of processed meat so i go to make a brocolli and and ham one. I need a bloody green vegetable every now and then. Her mum tells me this arvo Nadine doesn't like/can't eat brocolli or cauliflower, so when i get home i do half brocolli and ham, and half bacon and ham. It's late (as usual) when we sit down to dinner and Nadine whacks some puff-pastry wrapped sausage bits in the oven for aperitif which takes ages to cook. Then the kids want to go watch tele so she lets them (unusual but its Friday) and then its 8.30, they're not hungry anymore cos of the sausage and its late so she sends them to bed, and Frederic says he's not hungry, so my perfectly cooked quiche barely gets eaten. At least the rest is in the fridge and will go in the freezer asap.

Now Nadine also always says she would prefer to make those easy things like biscuits, flavoured crackers etc at home instead of buying to avoid the additives and preservatives (and it should be cheaper) but so far has never had the time. So i take the opportunity to bake a fair bit and all it hear is "it could do with more sugar" or "did you put salt in this?" or "it doesn't have much gout (flavour)."

Just on the side, to me this is a classic reaction of people who eat too much refined sugar and and salt products (as they do every single day) and whose taste buds require heavy flavourings for taste. Studies have been done to show this.

She supposedly doesn't like waste but on Wednesday she'd planned bbq sausages so that night i made a potato salad - nothing unsual just potatos, fresh chives and a mayo/mustard dressing. And a tabouli (which here they make with couscous not bulghur). Two things she would normally buy at the supermarket, god knows why because they are both simple salads with everyday ingredients and it's totally normal for me to make these things not buy. I can't do a coleslaw or any green salad other than rocket cos frederic won't eat cabbage or cucumber or raw tomatos and a lot of other veg. But potato and couscous are normally a sure thing for all. And i made plently since she has mentioned more than once that i should make 'more' of whatever i'm doing. But for some reason,probably because they started late again, not much got eaten.

So it's only friday and the potato and tabouli haven't been touched since. i suggested (so that the kids and frederic weren't presented with exactly the same thing) tomorrow we could mix the leftover tuna and corn from last night's crudites with the potato salad and then i would do roast carrots and i could throw the chickpeas through that. Two nice, normal dishes that would make good use of what was open in the fridge. But no she's implied that the potato salad will probably have to be thrown out becasue its got mayo in it and she's 'careful about things with egg.' It's been barely 48 hours and its tightly wrapped in plastic in the fridge!!!! So i kind of said i'm sure it really would be fine, she says "we can eat the leftover crudites but not to mix with potato in case it's not ok, we'll see tomorrow."
It's total bullshit. I'm trying to be helpful and she reckons they like to try new things, but overall almost everything i have made they have ways they'd 'improve' on it or it has some ingredient that at least one of them simply doesn't like. And i'm not just throwing things together i'm following rated recipes or making things i've been doing for years.

Honestly given how creative they can be at things like Antonin's and Amarine's celebration lunches you'd never think they really prefer to live on FRIED potato and FRIED carrots. Did i mention that unless its a stinking hot day the preferred method of cooking anything is in oil or butter in the frypan? /yes i think i did. The crudite routine is about the only thing they eat cold. I presented her with a magazine recipe for a shredded chicken, green bean and potato salad and she said "great, we'll throw it in the frying pan with some oil." So it tasted like fried olive oil. not what i was going for :(

And its even more annoying for me because with the recent warm weather the produce at the markets this week is great. There's quality cauliflower, peaches, apricots, brocolli, white and green asparagus, capsicum etc. All these colourful and many locally grown things! Today i went ahead and bought all these except the asparagus (a little expensive as far as nadine thinks, but it shits all over the bottled stuff she buys so really once evey few weeks should be fine) plus melon. I didn't buy zucchini only because ours is nearly ready. Otherwise there would be nothing fresh in the fridge except, yep carrots and potato in the cupboard.

So basically they are not anywhere near as open to tasting food as she straight out said they are. Maybe i'll have to start being a little less open too. I know when i've had too much stodgy stuff and not wanted to eat Maryvon the Grandma is quite concerned about my digestion and tells me to drink hot water and lemon juice which i do anyway so i think she is sometimes more aware of how heavy the food can be.

Honestly to save my sanity I think i'll have to leave my recipes til i return to Australia and just ask her what she wants me to make and then make sure i take more lunchtimes away from the house where i can eat more of what i choose. And the next time we have processed-floorsweeping-pork-mix-with-poultry fat-in-a-pastry-crust (this is actually a common aperitif called 'pate en croute') i will fake a severe stomach ache and appear to not eat for 2 days.

I promise the next blog will be a positive non-whinging one.

Posted by Madeline84 21:55 Archived in France Comments (0)

A trying week

rain 20 °C

Lately life around here has been quite trying.

It seems there are not so good developments with the health of their business and It looks like they will fold within a month. or the next 2 weeks. They had a solar panel installation company but thanks to the government demand has dropped significantly in the last year. They seem to be going back and forth between different ideas, mainly starting a new company supplying pool coverings (like mini greenhouses, so you can still swim under the cover) or having to find other work. Neither want to work for anyone else so it looks like a new business will be pushed for. As far as i know i'm still needed so otherwise things continue. Needless to say Nadine and Frederic's stress levels are high (mainly Nadines, and it shows). The children aren't helping either...

The improvements with Antonin were short lived. Nobody is surprised. I think i heard Military College being threatened. Something amusing (for me) happened on Tuesday - He had been a lot better for all of a week, but was in a mood on the way home from school because he wasn’t allowed to buy a computer game (Dofus?) magazine. So we pull into the driveway and i park and get out of the car. He's slumped with his feet up on the dashboard having a sulk, then kicks the windscreen from inside and shatters it! Its still intact but with the mother of all cracks covering a third of it. "Oh merde" ("shit") comes out of his mouth as he's as surprised as anyone that it broke. I just say "oh merde is right" and walk off into the house.
Mind you, he still plays up that arvo and the next day as usual - even a physical reminder of what happens when he carries on for not getting what he wants when he wants it doesn’t stop him misbehaving. *sigh* seriously, was he dropped as a baby?? There are some neurons or synapses not connecting there.

On a more personal note,
Last week I had my first run in with the police! without the kids luckily. I was pulled over for going through an orange light. Apparently you can drive with little patience or consideration of for others and ignore pedestrian crossings, but if a light has just turned orange you MUST stop. I thought that was the purpose of the red light? A bit like you can buy 40% spirits in the supermarket but must go to a chemist for basic paracetamol, and ask for it as it’s kept behind the counter... ok then.
So I don’t know what the fine would have been but luckily the “I’m Australian and I’m very sorry I didn’t know orange was not ok” (mostly true, though to be honest Amarine had mentioned a few times that orange meant stop…) line worked and I didn’t get a ticket..
Of course of the 3 policemen in the car the one who approached and spoke English was just gorgeous – really drooling, belonging-in-a-calendar degree hotness. But overall it was a tense experience and i might not be so lucky again so I will be driving like a Saint in future!

Sophie and i got to the pool for the first time this week and it was soo good! to push myself at something again.
The pool at Chalon has good facilities and even both a humid and a dry sauna - That's where i'll be found when winter rolls around! I managed 22 laps, the same i was doing before i came here and not sore 2 days later so a good sign. i think the staircase in the house is keeping me fit.

Mum and Dad's visit was good, even though i got lost after picking them up from the airport on Saturday afternoon. The 'problem' being that there are several motorways leading away from Lyon Airport and i wasn't sure which was the one i arrived on. The sign's are ok but a bit to general for someone with not the greatest knowledge of the ma of Europe. They point you to either Paris, Geneva (in Switzerland) or Italy.
Anyhow we had hours to spare so i just ignored Dad's backseat driving and impatient sighs and enjoyed being lost with a car in France. Stopping every now and then to ask for directions, i encountered one amazing sight - a giant Arab-Indian style (or french-style for that matter) food preparation session at a town hall, with all the women sitting around chatting while making up great platters of salads. Only one younger girl spoke english but she wasn't from that area so it was most amusing with 7 other women pitching in their ideas of how best to get en route to Chalon without going back through Lyon and one translating into english the bits i was't sure of.
The 29th May was also Mother's Day in France so we had made cherry and mint jam as a gift for the mother's at Amarine's Communion lunch, and mum did manage to get that back into Australia.

I've been a little frustrated with Nadine this week, it hasn't been a problem as such but i find more and more we have different 'preferences' for food and i feel she is really inconsistent. Little things like something i suggest to cook she will have another idea for, but then the next week mention making something awfully similar. Hmm. And something i think is perfectly fine she has to comment that it needs 'more salt' or 'more sugar' or 'more butter,' 'too crusty' 'not crusty enough' etc.
Let's face it, If somebody else is preparing your food then its likely not going to be exactly to your maximum preference 100% of the time.
Personally I prefer to be able to taste the ingredients I top my pizza with for example, especially when its roasted capsicum and delicate fresh cheese, instead of the entire box of tomato concentrate that has completely over-rided the other things. But did anyone stop to ask me what i like or my opinion of the finished product ?? No, i just accepted that and decided next time to chime-in before someone else starts dressing all of the pizzas.

Yesterday i spent hours picking, cleaning and de-stoning cherries. They had to stay in a covered container on the bench overnight as there was no room in the fridge, then this morning she picks out 2 cherries from the container of several kilos and deems they are all fermented and not even good enough to stew. Right. Fermented fruit has a pretty distinct smell that i know and it didn't exist. Then later at lunch time when a few friends arrived she had suddenly decided they could be sorted and the good ones cooked. I don't know if she sensed i was more than a little shitty about this (i was politely trying to hide it) and changed her mind or if one of her friends put her straight. I did see the discarded ones in the bin though, and what do you know, there was maybe 2 handfuls there. Gee for someone who claims to not like to waste things there was an awful lot of perfectly good fruit that almost got ditched!

Anyway to avoid any more polite disputes, i picked more this morning and after another 4 hour sunday lunch i'm about to wash, dry, freeze, cook, make sorbet and anything else i can think of before the day is over :)

I had resolved to spend my time much more efficiently this week but so far unsuccessful. I really do not know where the time goes. I took myself off to Louhans last Monday to visit one of the bigger weekly markets but was somewhat disapointed. It was bigger than most and i think there was a section i didn't see, but it was raining so it wasn't nearly as fun, and there is still a severe lack of produce advertised as local. The price of fruit and veg is always higher at the markets too which makes no sense (hello - lack of overhead costs, come on!).
I appreciate that the stall holders don't laugh at my efforts to speak french. And voila, at one latier (dairy producer) at the Friday market in Chalon i discovered he didn't just sell cow's milk but goats also so i snapped up a bottle. Surprisingly it is much more mild than the Goats milk i've bought in Perth, much like the goat's cheese we usually buy. While i envy the different fuit and veg that is plentiful here we really are quite lucky in Perth also, especially with the variety and high quality.
Anyhow i'm going to try and continue my foray into the world of French markets and aim to visit at least 2 each week. Maybe with summer here there will be more local things (a lot comes from Spain).

As far as the language goes i'm ordering a simpler french learning book online as it's clear i'll have to do most of that myself.

Posted by Madeline84 11:48 Archived in France Comments (1)

How many (more) words...

can one fit their head?

all seasons in one day 16 °C

Yesterday we had some visitors arrive. The have come to stay for 1 week, as Amarine's 1st Communion is this Sunday so a big celebration (Church Mass & 7 course Lunch) is to be had. Their names are Hella and Edgar (they are in their 70's but seem younger and are really nice) and Nadine lived with them for a while in Germany in her youth so they are like her second parents.

Hella and Edgar speak German - they don't speak English and they don't speak French. So now I really really wish i had learnt (and remembered) a few more words in German. At least i suddenly feel i have come very far in learning French.
(I partly blame my high school for not offering either of those languages as a subject. What use is Indonesian really??)

So this will be fun, Nadine and Frederic are translating every which way and i will learn some German this time. It is really amusing listening to the switch between the 3 languages. At least half the time they turn to me and say something in German, or in English to Hella and Edgar.
It is truly incredible though - I have huge admiration for people that can speak even 2 languages fluently, let alone more. Seriously though without a lot of repitition i can hardly remember new French sentences so i dont know how i'll fit any German into my head... The charades skills are improving quickly!

My parents are currently in England and will fly over for the weekend before going back to London then Perth so i look forward to that. Good thing the house is big, it will be quite a 'cosy' weekend. Mum did learn German at school and stayed several months there so i have warned her to brush up quick smart!

I am also feeling extra happy this week because I have a friend here that i found all by myself! I have been in and out of the "Office de Tourisme" in Sennecy so much that Sophie who works there has befriended me. After helping me sort out numerous queries and giving suggestions on the many many occassions i have dropped in there and then realising i was going to be around for quite a while, she invited me to go swimming Thursday mornings in Chalon which works out well time wise - i just have to find how to spend 2 hours between dropping the kids at 8 and the pool opening at 10 - Not a lot is open before 9.30 or 10 am here - and i really really need to do something active (so i can promptly undo my good work at a patisserie later). So far we have just been shopping :p so maybe nest week the swimming will start.

This week also yielded a breakthrough with Antonin. After a reasonably good afternoon with him and without Amarine he specifically asked that i go to say goodnight to him after his parents. Which i usually do anyway but with the 'yep whatever' impression (and tone of voice) radiating out of him. So very good. Perhaps temporary, that is yet to be seen, but right now i'm noting any and all positive actions from him.

Posted by Madeline84 22:10 Archived in France Comments (1)

'tis the season for...

sunny 24 °C


Did I mention we have 6 giant cherry trees? At least 3 different varieties and this week they hit red and ripe! In my ridiculous state of excitement i started to pick the little bright red ones until I realised they weren’t quite ready yet, then discovered the bigger ‘black’ variety that I’m more familiar with further behind. Frederic had a cherry picker at the house because he’s working on restoring one of the walls so we all went up in that to pick some little ones, then I went off to get some sweeter big ones from the other tree – the best are at the top of course but no problem as they make excellent climbing trees!
[I can’t describe how fantastic it is to each perfectly ripe fresh cherries straight off the tree, but I fought my way through knee high dry grass, knowingly exascerbating my already intense hayfever symptoms to pick this basket of cherries]


So a clafoutis has already been made, we will do jam and chutney and I am searching recipes for icecream/sorbet and freezing and drying methods to make full use of the bounty. Does anyone have other ideas of cooking with or preserving cherries??
This is just the first 2 of 6 trees, even on one tree there are more cherries than can be picked in day, so I know I must accept some will be wasted or go to the birds but all my spare time WILL be spent gathering fruit.

Over the last few weeks I tried twice to start yoga in the neighbouring village of Sennecey, the 1st false start was because the teacher was sick and cancelled the class for the first time ever, the next week it was on but everyone needed their own mats, which I didn’t have because when I expressly asked if I needed to bring anything I was told no. And there was no misunderstanding, Sophie at the little Tourism Office was translating for me. Last week - since I had finished the final Uni assessment on the 13th (oh happy day!) – I decided I would rather stay in Chalon to do some discovering after dropping the kids at school instead of going straight back to Sennecey for the class. Now I’ve decided I don’t want to attend that one anyhow so I’ll be searching for another.

So one particular discovery session was at Carrefour Sud (the supermarket Carrefour at the south end of Chalon, as opposed to the other Carrefour at the northern end. And Chalon aint that big). I call it a ‘discovery session’ because I feel it goes some way toward explaining how I entered at 9am and didn’t leave until just after noon. I really was just looking but there was a lot there - and when the supermarket is not only a Coles but also a liquor store, retravision, dymocks, BCF, bakery, delicatessen, and Kitchen Warehouse then i think it doesn’t sound so bad. Plus I can’t shop without thorough examination of labels which takes twice as long.

I wish I could say my French is improving but I’m not noticing much. I haven’t really tried to timetable regular studying sessions yet, something will start asap if I can resist all the other distractions.

The vege garden is coming along slowly, the strawberries didn’t really take but it turns out they were wild anyway so only produce fruit the size of a pea. There are small tomatoes growing and we ALSO have quite a lot of raspberry bushes with fruit that should be ripe in a couple of weeks. There are all of 2 figs on the tree that is about 4 years old. I have to work out how i can claim at least one of those when it's ripe. I might be lucky since everyone else isnt all that interested in eating fruit, at least not everyday.

Generally things are really well, the kids are still… ah 'difficult' at times but I am getting quicker at jumping in when they start nerving each other and shortening the ‘inch’ so to speak so they can’t take a mile. Every now and then though there’s an afternoon where I’m brought to the brink of my snapping point. I won’t go into it but one day last week involved me pushing the dining room table to the door and leaping the couch to catch Antonin after chasing him around the living room furniture. He was waving a stick (feeling the 'power' i think, no intention to use it to hurt anyone) and it was extremely interesting to see his face change from 'ha ha you can't get me' to 'uh oh' when i caught him and snatched the stick. Free child psychology lessons here.

So I’m not totally the bitch au pair, only when i have to be (no one could possibly equal the tonne of bricks Nadine can drop on them when there’s been a big problem) but Nadine has said I don’t have to play by the rules ALL the time – she wants me to be the nice one who lets them OCCASIONLLY do things she wouldn’t or says ok to chocolate at breakfast time ‘but don’t tell your parents..’ So I suppose that’s good for me, and I’ll have to not stress about trying to reduce their sugar intake and their chocolate addiction and getting fruit and veg into them since I think I’m the only one who’s particularly concerned about them not getting their 2 & 5 per day.

Antonin is speaking a little more English – so a just a bit more than nothing – every now and then but he doesn’t hide the fact he understands almost everything I say in English so I don’t stress anymore over the level of communication. I help him with his homework when he lets me and on the rare occasion he’s in a good mood he’ll actually listen properly and correct the French I speak. Grandad Bernard was telling me once that there are something like 60,000 words in the French language (I think, anyway it was at least double that of English) but apparently now most people only use about 5,000. Maybe there is hope for me. Not that I’ve actually really started to learn formally, yet….

We have been very Gourmand over the past weeks, with a celebration for Antonin for something to do with church there was a 6 hour Sunday lunch a few weeks ago - involving nibblies ( ‘Aperitif,’ here it refers to both the pre-meal drink and appetiser food), 2 entrees - escargot and foie gras, 2 mains, white fish i think cabillot and melt in the mouth roasted beef wrapped in pastry, sorbet, cheese, dessert, cake (profiteroles) and coffee. And i'm sure i forgot something there.

We had left over escargot to use so us 3 adults ate them again during the week for dinner and then one of the freezers broke down so we simply had to cook another defrosted batch to avoid them going to waste :)

There was a lunch in Dantesyeux, a village near lyon for an annual get together for Nadine's Mum's (Grandma Maryvon) side of the family. It was in a 'slightly above average' restaurant but of course the standard was Aussie 5 star - even for a set menu for 50 people. Not only was the food interesting and really really fantastic but the afternoon was quite productive - I met one of Nadine's second cousins Chloe who has very good english and is living in Grenoble, studying Architecture at uni. So if i go venturing down that way i have someone to hang out with, and also a room at her mum's house in Avignon in Provence.

Otherwise i have been busy testing recipes in the kitchen, i was successful at my first attempt at making yoghurt, have produced nutritious biscuits for the kids (and Nadine and Frederic) when they need breakfast on the run or the arvo snack, oven baked banana chips and savoury crackers for aperitif time. All those things normally bought at the shop but really have little to them and are so easy make when one has the time.
An attempt at potato crips and zucchini chips wasn't so successful so back to the drawing board (internet) for those.

The weather has been brilliant for about a month now, bordering on hot actually even some days by 8am because the sun has been up for hours already, so i am now in shorts and skirts, and going shopping for a few more, select clothes since i brought so little.
Apparently the last 2 years it has been crappy cold weather until well into June but this year they are expecting a hot dry summer. Just the way i like it!

Posted by Madeline84 16:59 Archived in France Comments (0)

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