Friday, February 20, 2009

Who wants to go for a walk?

WE DO...WE DO!!!

Happy for an hour walk (once a week)

When I was in Los Angeles I was a volunteer with "Love on 4 Paws".  When Augie(0ur pug) was alive he was my companion and we would visit sick children at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.  They loved dogs there and would welcome them on the beds if the kids were OK with it.  We did that for 3 years and loved every minute of it.  At the end Augie would be in the wagon because he was old and it was hard for him to walk around for 3 hours.  After Augie retired, Dashell and I would visit the kids and it was so rewarding and wonderful to make a sick child smile.  They all loved the dogs.

We were also volunteers with NorthStar Foundation, we are puppy raisers for them.  Fun and rewarding and amazing to see the dog move to become the partner of an autistic child.

So when I came here I knew I wanted to volunteer and knew that it would be with animals. Through 2 lovely women, who will be our dog sitters while we are away (they also make/deliver amazing indian food) I found the Les Cheins de Figeac rescue.  I donated a large bag of dog food and we are sponsoring 2 dogs each month (for 10.00).  We decided to go up (it's only 30 minutes from our house) each week and help walk the dogs.  They have about 140 dogs at the rescue, they are all in very good condition and their living conditions are very clean and humane too.  They will never put a dog down, but some of these dogs have lived their whole lives at the refuge.  The dogs don't get much exercise unless they have volunteer walkers.  It's great to help and something we'll do every week.  

We went up and met Michelle, who runs/started the shelter and she is amazing.  She loves dogs and takes very good care of them.  Nicci, who has volunteered for almost 5 years was my contact and we met her up there to walk some of the dogs.  We spent 2 hours there and each dog got a 1 hour walk, so we made 6 dogs very happy.  Most of these dogs only get walked once a week which is very sad.

The first walk I was paired with UGO.  This is an amazing pointer, he is 4 year old, calm, doesn't pull on the leash, not a barker, very loving, very sweet.  I instantly fell in love with him. I have always wanted a pointer and this guy is wonderful not the typical crazy pointer, which is why he might have been dumped (his owner might have wanted a hunter and he's just not that into it).  But we have 2 dogs and just can't take a 3rd.  This guy just wants a loving home.

UGO - an amazing pointer

Bruce was paired with BROWNIE, who is a french breed.  He's super cute, lovable, doesn't pull on the lead and would be a great dog in any family.

Brownie - sweet and fun

The second walk I got COLL, who is cross between border collie/english setter.  He's beautiful and does pull on the lead.  I brought our "gentle walker" which is sort of like a harness but instead of clipping on the top it clips on the chest and it stops dogs from pulling.  2 of the french volunteers and Michele who runs the rescue had never seen anything like it and thought it was going to hurt him or it was upside down, but we told them it was fine.  Then they saw him walk on the leash and noticed he wasn't pulling anymore.  Yes!  He just needs a good home and someone to work with him, he'd be an amazing dog as he just loves people.

COLL - a beautiful dog

Bruce got ALIX, she's amazing.  She's only 3 but completely off leash trained.  She stays right next to you.  She a bit overweight and need some trimming down, which we'll do with many walks.  She's beautiful and sweet and would make someone a loving companion.

These dogs are available here in France, but they will get pet passports in case someone from England or another country wants them.  None of these dogs were dumped because they are hard to handle, aggressive, crazy dogs.  They are all amazing and just would love a good home and a 2nd chance.

If you could pass the link around to anyone you might know it would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Day of Wine Tasting - Gaillac

Yesterday is was raining and a bit cold.  So instead of going to the gym we decided to head south to Gaillac, about a 45 minute drive from our house, to do some wine tasting.  

Situated in the north of the Tarn department, the Gaillac Appellation area covers 2.500 hectares spread over 73 communes, for an AOC production of over 165.000 hectolitres. Today, the appellation gathers around one hundred independent producers and 3 cooperative cellars.

There are 3 different terroirs and the age of the vineyard enable Gaillac to offer numerous traditional grape varieties. The diversity of the Gaillac vineyard means that it can produce a great variety of elaborate wines, a wide range of dry, sweet and "perlé" white wines, red and rose wines as well as sparkling wines.

Our first stop was the Maison des Vins, which is located in the Office de Tourism. It's the local place for all the vineyards to showcase their wines and you can do tastes for free. Each week they feature 3 different reds and 3 different whites for you to try and they also have the map of all the vineyards (there are 116) with information on each of them. Some don't do tastings at all, others you need to call first (in the winter) and some are open anytime between 10-12 and 2:30 - 6:00. We tasted all 3 of the reds and all of the whites and purchased one of the reds we tasted (2 bottles) and one red Bruce just picked off the shelf.

The one we tasted & purchased is a 2005 from Chateau Chaumet LaGrange. It's a combination of Braucol, Cabernet and Syrah.  The second one is a 2005 from Le Haut des Vergnades, it won the gold medal for the concours des vins de gaillac in 2007, we are going to try that tonight.

We had the map in hand and it was 2:00 so off we went in search of some vineyards. We decided to visit vineyards in the Les Plateau Cordais, which is the northern most terrior. We knew we couldn't see all 30 so vineyard in this terrior, so the woman at the Maison des Vins picked out 3 for us. One was organic, one was bio-dynamic and the other was traditional.

Our first visit was to Chateau de Mayragues, the bio-dynamic vineyard. This vineyard is owned by Alan and Laurence Geddes, There we were for the first 15 or so minutes speaking french to him and then I couldn't remember a word and asked Bruce in english and Alan answered in english. Come to find out he's scottish and bought the vineyard 29 years ago. We only tasted his reds (2006), they were really good. We bought 2 bottles.  One is their classic made with Duras & Syrah grapes.  It's fruity with hints of pepper.  The second was their Clos des Mages made with Brancol and Cabernet, it's a fullier bodied wine ages in oak for 15 months.

Having a little taste

The Chateau (their home)

Their Pigeoneer

Our next stop was Domaine de Peyres-Combe.  Their wines are organic and we tasted only reds (2005 and 2006).  We both really liked the 2005, so we bought 2 bottles here.  They use a combination of Duras and Merlot.

Our final stop was Chateau Bourguet, their vineyard is the last (most northern) vineyard in the region.  We were greated by one of the guys in the the vineyard doing some maintenance.  Then his Mom, Jean came in (she was about 40) and she was lovely.  Their vineyard is a 5 generation vineyard!  Jean took us into the cave and showed us how their wines are made, it was amazing and she was so nice.  We spent about 30 minutes with her talking and tasting.  We bought 3 reds (one is a 2006,  one is a 2007 and  the other 2007  was aged in oak), we also bought one of their whites.

That was all we could do for the day.  But this is what we came home with!  A great day.  If you have a chance to pick up a Gaillac in the states, I highly recommend them.  All of these bottes were less than 6 euros each!

What makes Gaillac so SPECIAL?

Gaillac is the second oldest, after Narbonne, wine growing region in France and has had vineyards since before the birth of Christ. Major vineyard development took place in AD 972 with the arrival of the Benedictine monks who founded an abbey in the town of St. Michel. Laws were established regarding the quality of wines from Gaillac in 1271, and in 1938, the white wines of the region were granted AOC status. In 1970, this guarantee of quality was extended to Gaillac's reds and roses.

The appellation region has three distinctly different terriors with on the right bank of the Tarn the soils tend to be molassic clayey-calcareous slopes, with sandy or gravely outcrops are at the heart of the vineyard. While to the north the Plateau Cordais has granitic and calcareous soils that are the well suited for fruity whites and subtle reds. On the left bank the soils are of pebbles, gravels, sands or "boulbenes"(soils of alluvial, sandy and clayey composition) and these are ideal for producing dense, deep red wines.

The region has seen over the past 20 years a return to the use of traditional Gaillac grape varieties such as Ondenc, Len de l'el and Mauzac in white, Fer, Duras and Braucol in red. These are often blended with classic red varieties such as Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah; and whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. As a result some unique wines are produced with characteristics not found in other regions.

Principal Gaillac Grape Varieties

red varieties :
DURAS: this is one of the oldest grape varieties, restored to favour in the last twenty years. It brings colour, suppleness and finesse, and its main characteristics are its peppery and spicy aromas.

BRAUCOL: also called Fer Servadou, this grape produces a wine high in colour, full bodied and rustic. Its very characteristic aromas evoke blackcurrant, raspberry, crumpled leaves and red pepper.

SYRAH: of mediterranean origins, this grape is best suited to well orientated plots. Used with moderation, it brings Gaillac robustness and aromatic complexity.

GAMAY: this is the only variety entitled to produce Gaillac Primeur.
It has adapted very well to the Gaillac terroir and, for many years, has enabled Gaillac Primeur to obtain national recognition (4 times the winner of the "Concours National des vins primeurs", and always in the top three).

white varieties :

MAUZAC: this is a traditional Gaillac grape, with many different aspects. It is excellent for the making of various white wines : dry, sweet, sparkling.
Its main characteristic lays in its aromas of apple and pear. It produces soft wines with low acidity, and some pure Mauzac are real jewels.
This variety only exists in Gaillac and Limoux. It is particularly suited to the making of sparkling wines.

LEN DE L'EL : its name means "Loin de l'oeil", given to this variety because its main stem is very long and the grape is therefore "far from the eye", i.e. the bud from which it was born.
This ancient variety can only be found in Gaillac. It produces a wine with a very subtle, floral or citrus fruit aroma, bringing the wine freshness and suppleness.

SAUVIGNON and MUSCADELLE complete the traditional white Gaillac vine population.

The Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée wines from Gaillac have in common one extraordinary wealth : whether dry white, "fraîcheur perlée"(delicately sparkling) or red, you can always discover, wandering in a cellar or a wine vault, exquisite finesse here, a more intense aromatic bouquet there, or even unexpected red fruit aromas.


Pale yellow with changing green glints, its intense fruit is delicately structured by bewitching aromas.It is at its best, as much colour-wise than taste-wise, when drunk cool.
The leading AOC, dry white Gaillac remains, for many, the Appellation's specificity.

"Fraîcheur Perlée" AOC GAILLAC

Its specificity : its pearl of freshness. As its name indicates, this wine keeps, after the winemaker's work, a vast quantity of very fine pearls. Their main aim is to keep the impression of freshness and also to exacerbate the natural aromas of Mauzac and Len de l'El.
Drunk cold, it is an excellent aperitif wine and goes admirably with sea food.


The Gaillac winemakers have shown, through very hard work, that the Gaillac terroirs are also very suited to the elaboration of excellent reds. Today, red Gaillac is one of the vineyard's great riches.
With its deep colour, its powerful nose, its owns subtle balance, dominated by red fruit (blackcurrant, raspberry...) and very specific touches of spice. The best cuvees of red Gaillac are usually matured in oak.


The pleasant Gaillac Primeur is our pride. Fruity and easy to drink, with its characteristic aromas, Gaillac Primeur always appear in the national competitions' top primeurs and has often been awarded the "Premier Primeur de France" title.
First AOC wine of the year, it can only be drunk from the third Thursday of November. It must exclusively be produced from Gamay and elaborated with whole, non-pressed grapes. It is a young wine and should be drunk in its year of birth.


When you ask a Gaillac producer about this AOC, he will not be able to refrain telling you about the wealth of its scents (pear, apple, peach), its unctuosity, its length and he will probably suggest the classic marriage with foie gras. But he might offer more original tasting ways : as an aperitif or with Roquefort cheese.
Born from the heart of the terroir and the oldest vines, it has brought Gaillac its renoun.


A bright cherry colour, Rose Gaillac is a fine, lively wine with fruity aromas. It is a very pleasant companion to summer lunches.


Elaborated traditionally, or with the "méthode gaillacoise", Gaillac "mousseux" will seduce you at the beginning of a meal or to finish on a sparkling note.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I feel like a bad Mom

20 eggs!

About 2 months ago (maybe mid-December) I notice that Rhoda our only laying hen stopped laying.  I heard that in the winter hens either slow down or completely stop laying, because there is less light.  I was told that in spring they'll go back to producing.  But then everyone I know who has chickens said that theirs stopped in December but started back up in mid-January.  But mine hasn't!  Or at least that's what I thought.

When we went to Béziers our friends B&A watched our chickens at their house.  I was talking to Ben today and told him that our chickens aren't laying and he told me that Rhoda laid at  his house....what?  He told me that maybe she's not laying in her nesting box because she's free-range.  Sometimes they start to lay someplace else.  So this morning I decided to go and see where they might go to during the day.  I went up to the coop and Fanny & Lefty were still in there, but I didn't see Rhonda.  Then I heard her cluck, where was she?  Part of the coop is a shed where the pool chairs are stored.  I looked behind the pool chairs and there she was.  I went back and she was laying an egg.  She then stood up and there were tons of eggs.  OMG - she has been laying the last month or so but I didn't know it.  She was probably wondering why I wasn't coming to get her eggs.  I made her a nice fluffy bed  where she has been laying so it's a bit more comfortable for her.  I kind of feel like a bad Mom, not paying attention to her child.

I did the egg freshness test.  You drop them in a jug of water and if they float to the top they are bad.  ALL her eggs were perfectly fresh.  That's my girl!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

10 Random Things....



about me?  Nope.  Megan at An American in Provence  tagged me for "10 random things".  I was tagged a few months ago and you can check it out here if you are at all interested.  I decided to have our dogs do 10 random things about themselves, you know, mix things up a bit.  I have had a few requests to do a post or so including them, so here you go.  All you need to know about our kids.  Since Dashell is older, I'll let him go first.

DASHELL - 4 years old, Golden Retriever

1.  I was born in Storrs, Connecticut
2.  I have flown on a plane twice.  The first time I was 4 months old and flew in my "first" mom's (Patty) arms.  The second was in September when I flew to France.
3.  I am a Northstar Foundation dog
4.  I'm a big scardey cat (say for instance a door is 1/2 closed, instead of using my huge schnoz to open it, I'll just cry until you let me in)

5.  I'm a talker...yes, just like my grandfather who they called "the whirler", I sound like Chewbacca (you know the Wookie from Star Wars). I always have to have something in my mouth when you come home so I can "whirl" away

6.  I love kids and I'm a really nice guy (i know that's two but oh well)
7.  My favorite thing to chew is an empty toilet paper roll (I actually eat it)
8.  My favorite toy is my yellow ice cream cone,  Lorette (who is Sophie's mom) actually introduce me to the cone and it's the only toy that I'll play with.  I'm so happy Mom and Dad brought (4) to france with us

9.  I can do many tricks - shake (with left and right), sit, lay down, high five and turn-around
10. I'm a counter-surfer, great trick (i've scored many goodies), although my mom and dad don't think so!

STELLA - 2 1/2, Terrier Mix

1.  I was dumped at a park on/around Thanksgiving Day 2006 by my first owner (when I was only 4 months old)
2.  I was found by my new parents that day (my mom said to my Dad..."I can't leave her" and he said "Do what you have to do")
3.  I look like a drowned rat when I get a bath

4.  I have many nicknames:  Stella V, Stella Vaughn, Vixon, Vicki, Mitzi, ViVi and Venus
5.  I can almost do a flip - I'd be a great circus dog

6.  I am a girl but look like a boy (I have a beard)
7.  I resemble "The Unibomber" Ted Kaczynski  

8.  I really don't like Maillot kitty, especially when she sleeps by Dashell, argh!

9.  I won't eat my kibble unless mom puts in some pasta, rice or scrambled egg (so spoiled)
10. I have a beautiful under bite!

11. I know we were only to do 10...but we had to put this in. We both miss Augie.

Augie - January 1, 1992 - June 27, 2008