Tuesday, January 21, 2014

If you're a mouse, I'd watch out.

Back in September, we were standing outside at about 10:00 pm.  I heard a faint cry and then it seemed to get louder and louder.  It was coming from across our yard down by the forest.  We live across from Le Forêt de Grésigne (which is the largest oak forest in Europe).  Anyway, we walked around the house and down across the road, Bruce had a flashlight and we could hear the cry, but couldn't see anything.  Then Bruce said "oh my god" and right at the edge of the forest, in a bunch of nettles we saw this little black "thing"....I picked it up and it was a little tiny kitten.  She was so tiny, she fit in the palm of my hand.

Still a bit scared...I don't think she got off the couch and ventured around for 2 weeks.

The man and his cat

After a month with us, she found our bed

We took her back to the house, because we couldn't just leave her outside as she probably would have been eaten by an owl or a fox.  She was shaking and scared when we brought her into the house. I didn't have any cat food and didn't think I should feed her dog food, so all I could give her was milk. She drank it right up.  We got a basket and put a blanket in it and put it in the bathroom with some water.  She cried for quite a while and then fell asleep.

The next morning we took her to the vet because we knew we were going to keep her.  We had talked about getting another cat (we did have Maillot and Mr. Fancypants) - who both found us when we first moved here for our sabbatical in 2009, but we had to find them new homes when we had to return to the states in 2010, as we didn't know if we would be coming back to France and we didn't think it was fair to take them back to Los Angeles.  They were wild cats, roaming around all day and being in Los Angeles would be very different.  Lately we've been hearing mice in the walls and seeing droppings in the pantry (luckily we keep the door closed).  I tried to trap with a "safe" trap, but they never fell for it.

The vet told us the little kitten was about 3-4 weeks old.  Taken way too soon from her Mother.  I'm sure someone just dumped her (very common here), as we never saw a Mama cat.  We named her Colette, because she's all black and our little hamlet of 3 houses were homes of the charbonniers, who made charcoal from wood in the Forest back in the 1800's.  So, if she would have been a boy her name would have been Cole, but since she's a girl, we named her Colette.

She's a lovely little girl - now almost 5 months old.  She's easy, loving (not too needy) and independent (but not too independent), loves her Momma AND, she a huntress.  She goes out first thing in the morning and within an hour she's either got a mouse or a little mole.  She usually tortures it right in front of our glass door, I have to look away as it seems so cruel.  But last night...oh last night.  She sleeps in the house at night, not in our bedroom, usually in her basket in the living room.  Last night I got up at 3:00 am to use the bathroom and there she was, right by my feet.  She scared me, as I didn't turn on the light and didn't know she was there.  Then she started darting around the toilet and I went and turned the light on.  Behind the toilet was a big fat mouse - who was about to have a very bad night.  I couldn't do anything about it, so I just went back to bed.  Bruce got up to go to the bathroom after me (I guess I woke him up), and I said "Colette has a mouse in the bathroom", but that was all I said and we didn't talk about it when he came back into bed.   So, this morning we went into the bathroom and didn't see a mouse, we looked around the house and no mouse, nothing (not a head or tail or liver or kidney).  Then about 1/2 hour later I went to take a shower. I looked in and what did I see - a liver or kidney and blood....in the shower!  Yuck.  But...yay. She got the mouse that had been in the pantry.  She's earning her keep for sure.

Tired girl after mouse hunting

See the little mole on the ground?????

Then I cleaned the shower.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2 of my favorite winter soups

Our Sunday market in St. Antonin Noble Val

We eat loads of vegetables at our house.  Most dinners consist of a lean protein and veggies.  That's it. One of my favorite soups to make is a winter potage.  I don't use potato or cream, just seasonal vegetables.  It's so simple, so healthy and very filling.

Winter Potage

coconut oil or olive oil
2 leeks (diced)
1 onion (diced)
3 carrots (diced)
1 head of broccoli (cut up)
1/2 head of cauliflower (cut up)
Kale, spinach or chard (cut up)
2 cloves garlic
herbs de Provence
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
water as needed

I head 2 TB oil in my le creuset and add the garlic, onion and leeks.  Cook for about 5-6 minutes.  Add the rest of the vegetables, 1 tsp herbs de provence, salt/petter and chicken broth.  If the broth doesn't cover the vegetables, add more or use water.  You just want the vegetables covered.  Bring to boil and reduce and simmer for 30 minutes.  I then purée it in my Blendtec.  That's it.  So easy and such a great way to get veggies in your diet.  I keep it pretty thick too, hence the name potage.

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup (from Supideasypaleo.com)

3 carrots
1 medium/large butternut squash
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
salt/pepper to taste
Melted coconut oil or other fat of choice

Preheat over to 400 degrees (200 C).  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Peel squash and cut it lengthwise down the middle.  Scoop out the seeds.  Chop the squash into a large dice.  Place on the baking sheet and drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Do the same with the carrots.
Bake squash and carrots for 20 minutes or until they are soft and lightly brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and put the veggies in a pot.  Add the rest of the ingredients:  chicken stock, coconut milk, cumin and cinnamon and stir.  Puree the soup until smooth.  I keep this thick as well.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I've got a new job this year.

I'm married to a painter. A very talented painter.  But as with most artists, he's horrible at marketing himself.  We finally have a place where he can focus on his art.  The past few years we've been in a small village house and one of our bedrooms was his studio.  It was very hard, since most of his work is large abstract pieces.  Since we've been in the farmhouse he's been using our gite as his studio, it's perfect!

My favorite piece - and the only one that isn't for sale.

Now back to the marketing problem.  My husband gives his work away!  Seriously....gives it away. As a business woman this makes me crazy.  He's sold many paintings, so it's not like he needs to give his work away, but he's just too nice and he has a hard time pricing his work and then asking for the price once it's set.  Me on the other hand, have no problem pricing his work and asking for the price.  So we have decided that my new job is to represent him.  I built a new website for his work,  I manage his twitter account, facebook account and all the other sites where his work is listed.  I will also be working with galleries and getting his work "out there" for others to see and buy.  I'm also going to document him working in the studio and I get to say "it's finished".  If he had his way, he'd work on a piece forever, probably producing 1 piece a year!

I'm proud to have such a talented husband, watching him draw and paint amazes me.  So, that's my new job.  It doesn't pay very well, well not at all, until he sells a piece.  But it's very rewarding and something we can do together, like everything else in our life.  You can check out his work here and if you are interested in anything, just let me know.  We can ship anywhere in the world.

New piece hanging in our living room.

In the studio.

Charcoal, conte on watercolor paper
oil on canvas

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Goals (not resolutions)

I don't believe in Resolutions and I don't make them each year.  But what I do do is write down goals for the year.  I do personal and professional goals.  This year I don't have too many, but thought I'd share what I do have.

My 2014 personal goals.  Most are fitness related, because I'm a bit obsessed with climbing and fitness. In 2013 my goal was to climb 7a+ (12a), if you don't know anything about climbing, routes have grades depending on the difficulty.  Grades in France are different from American grades, but they mean the same thing (like a 7a+ in France is the same as a 12a in America).  Grades usually start at a 4 and it goes from 4, 5, 5+, 6, 6a, 6a+, 6b, 6b+, 6c, 6c+, 7a, 7a+, 7b, etc...all the way to the hardest route 9b+ (5.15c), something I'll never achieve in my lifetime.  I'm now at 7a+,  I climbed 3 in 2013.  My goal for 2014 is 7b.  So much harder than 7a+, even though it might not seem like it, trust me it's a huge jump.  But it's something I'm going to go for this year.

using my new sandbag (30 lbs)

This always make me happy!
Another goal is to do a press-up handstand.  I was a gymnast from when I was 8-14 and I could do one back when I was young, but I want to try to do one again, while I'm 50.  If you don't know what one is, you can see it below.  It might be harder than climbing 7b, in fact I'm sure it is.  On one youtube video it says it can take 5 years to master!  Kino is awesome and she's got a great youtube channel, check it out here.

Kino doing press-up handstand.

I also want to take some pottery classes or get some studio time at a studio nearby.  You might not know this, but I am a potter.  I had a complete studio when I lived in Los Angeles and sold my work at a few stores there too.  But when we moved to France I had to sell my wheel and kiln (too expensive to ship and the wrong plug and voltage).  I have never been in a place where I could throw again, it's expensive to set-up a studio and also you need a good place to set it up (good ventilation).  We'd like to build a studio here at the house, but it won't happen until the end of the year.  I can't throw in Bruce's studio, because I'd take up too much space.  I really miss it and have found a few studios in Toulouse, 1 hour away, but that's no big deal. I'm going to go and visit them, see which is best for me and sign up. Time to get back in the studio and play with some clay.

some of my pieces.
I will also continue to eat healthy and clean and keep fit.  I'm in the best shape of my life at 50 and I plan on staying that way.  On days I don't climb I usually do a Bodyrock workout or a TRX workout. I Eating clean is easy to do here in rural France.  You only eat what is in season, there aren't tons of choices at the store, we don't eat pre-packaged or food with preservatives...everything is fresh and local. I pretty much follow a paleo/zone diet....stay away from rice, pasta, wheat, bread and sugar.  I still have my glass of wine though.....it's healthy, right?  I've been making some great soups (I'll do a post on them in a bit) and also some sweets that are made with Agave, one an amazing biscotti.

That's about it for my personal goals.  Nothing crazy (well the press-up handstand might be) but I need something to work towards.  Luckily we live 10 minutes from amazing climbing, so I'll be able to work on my 7b as much as I want (or can).  Goals are important to me, not resolutions.  What about you?  Do you set any goals each year?

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 - What a year

I was talking to my friends daughter on New Years Eve about writing a blog.  I showed her my blog and then realized I hadn't updated it since last January.  Pathetic.  So, one of my goals for 2014 is to update it regularly.  The only problem is that our life here in France is pretty simple and to some, maybe a bit boring.  But, I'll do my best to write about some interesting things!

But this post will be about 2013.  Just a little re-cap of our year.

The winter here was horrible.  Starting in November of 2012 it was cold, it continued through December and in January snow.  We headed to Spain to find some sun and do some climbing.  Once you drove over the Pyrénées into Spain in was sunny and much warmer.  We spent 5 days there.

The road to our house.

Not everyone was unhappy.

Stella with her snow balls.

A small traffic jam in sunny Spain.

In February we headed to Paris for 4 days to attend some camp fairs.  It was freezing and sleeting most of the time.  Not fun.  After Paris we headed towards Nice for another camp fair.  The weather was much nicer and we spent a couple extra days climbing at Chateauvert and we also visited the Picasso museum outside of Nice.

Spent most of the time in Paris underground.

Bruce and his favorite Artist.

Sun and warm in southeast France.
At the end of February we headed back to Spain with our friends Mike and Nicci for some hiking, mountain biking and climbing, spent a week there,  good times.

In Spain with our good friends.
In March we had 2 visitors.  First was our good friend Chris who came for 3 weeks from Colorado to climb.  We climbed here for the first 2 weeks and then headed back to Spain for another week of climbing.  At the end of February our friend Paul came from Los Angeles for 10 days, he's also a climber and we stayed around here as the weather was getting better.  It was good to have both of them here.

April was quiet, weather wasn't so bad, so we did loads of climbing, hiking and running.

Always a good day when we're climbing.
In May we had our adult culinary retreat with Chef Carol Cotner Thompson.  We had a great group of women from Los Angeles for the week.  It was filled with great food, good wine and loads of laughter.

Chef Carol with some of her students cutting up whole ducks.
In June, Bruce went back to Paris to meet his good friend Kevin who scored tickets to the French Open.  He spent 4 days in Paris and the two had a great time.  Our good friends B and B arrived from Los Angeles for the summer.  We met them 5 years ago in Los Angeles, right before we moved to France. Little did we know they owned a house in our village, we've been great friends ever since. They only come here in the summer, it was so good to see them.  We then spent the rest of June climbing and getting the house ready for our teen art retreats, which started the last week of June.

Me and Bruce (not my Bruce, but the "other" Bruce)

Bruce and Kevin in Paris at the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.
July and August were super busy.  We had (3) teen art retreats, each 16 days long, with a 2 day break in-between.  It's non-stop 24/, but we love it!  We had amazing teens from all over the world come and stay with us and they created some fantastic art.  We had a girl from Hong Kong come for all 3 sessions (she was with us for 7 weeks).  She was like our adopted child.  I cried when she left.  At the end of August we hosted (3) families here at Haute Serre.  Our good friends Brant and Tia came with their 2 boys and they brought (2) other couples and their (4) kids.  They spent a week with us, kids doing art in the mornings and in the afternoons we toured them around our region.  A wonderful week with great people.

In September I turned 50!  Our "family" retreat was here and I got (5) cakes.  Two of the girls made (2) cakes and Bruce bought (3).  After the family retreat ended, Bruce and I headed over to Millau to do some rock climbing in the Gorges du Tarn. We spent a week exploring, hiking and climbing.  A perfect birthday.  We came home from my birthday week we were outside and heard a cry.....we took a flashlight and walked around the back of the house and down the road.  Bruce and I could hear the cry but couldn't see anything, and then all of sudden we saw a little black kitten.  Dumped right on the side of the road, she was in the nettles, crying.  We took her in (we couldn't leave her out there) and she could fit in my hand.  We took her to the vet the next day and found out she was about 4 weeks old. We decided (we'll maybe she decided too) to keep her and now she's almost 5 months old.  Her name is Colette.

One of my fantastic cakes.
This is the love letter I got from Bruce....it ended with "50 things I love about you".

Our new addition to the pack.  Colette.

In October we headed back to Los Angeles to visit family and friends, as it had been over 2 years since we've been back.  We spent a week in Los Angeles and then headed out to Las Vegas to climb at Red Rocks.  Our friends (who we stayed with) daughter turned 14 when we came back from Vegas and she and Bruce spent an afternoon at Duff's Cakes making her birthday cake.  We spent another week in Los Angeles and then decided to go back to Vegas to do some more climbing for a few days.  While we were in Los Angeles, we saw family and good friends and spent quality time with our good friends E and K.  We also ate Mexican, Sushi, Vietnamese, Italian, etc....all the food we can't get here in France.  We were there a month. Thank goodness for our good friends Mike and Nicci who took care of the dogs while we were away, Gill who took in Colette and E and K who took us in for a month!

The cake!

Red Rocks, Las Vegas, NV

Love the red rocks and blue sky.

Tired after a long day of climbing.

Visiting friends in Malibu, Bruce was excited to get back in the ocean.

Famous Hinano's in Venice.

Back to France the week before Thanksgiving.  We had a quiet non-eventful Thanksgiving (we had duck breast) and were happy to be home.  The weather was wonderful and warm and dry.

We spent most of December climbing, as again, the weather was fantastic.  We did head over to Brantome to see our good friend Kim.  We hadn't seen her in a few years and it was good to catch up. Our Christmas was quiet too, just the two of us.  New Year's Eve was spent at our good friends house, with 12 others.  Lovely time and great food.  We actually stayed up until after midnight, the first in a long time.  We had kept a memory jar for 2013 and on the 1st we opened it and read all the notes we had put in to remind us of things that happened during the year.

Beautiful Brantöme

 Kim and I on our way to lunch.

Here's to 2014.  Hope all of you have a fantastic year.