Sunday, June 28, 2009

The French Markets

We have returned from a lovely week in Provence, France, and had such a wonderful week away. There were so many parts of our trip to highlight, but my favorite part about our time there was the time we spent at the markets in the various towns. I loved just wandering around the aisles of stalls filled with produce, meats, cheeses, textiles, pottery, local specialties and more. Markets seem to happen often throughout Europe and they are truly a part of life here. France, however, seemed to have the most stunning markets I have seen yet....Here are some of the sights we saw at the markets we visited in Isle Sur La Sorgue, St. Remy de Provence and Aix-en-Provence. 

Lavender, Lavender everywhere!!

The beautiful French linens.

More lavender and other smells in the form of locally made soaps.

I had one of these delicious meringues - filled with chocolate chips and nuggets! 
Oh the many kinds and all were delicious! 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bon Voyage

Tomorrow we are are headed to Provence, France for a week. Here are some photos of the little "gite" (cottage) we have rented in a small village in southern France....

Let's hope it is as lovely in person when we arrive tomorrow!
We are looking forward to the wine, the open air markets, the cheese, and oh those lavender fields....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Anyone for PIMMS?

A few weeks ago we went over to our British friends' home for a drink in their garden and they offered us a glass of Pimm's. Intrigued, we both opted to try the drink and found it to be delicious! The next day, we were at our local grocery, Sainsbury, to purchase our own bottle to enjoy at home. The following week, this display was up at the Sainsbury....
Apparently it is PIMM'S No. 1 season now in England. 
What is PIMM's, you ask? Well, the version we are enjoying right now is called PIMM's No. 1. This original Pimm's No 1 was made using gin, quinine and a secret mixture of herbs as an aid to digestion. After the Second World War, the range was extended using other spirit bases - Scotch for No. 2 cup, No. 3 brandy, No. 4 rum, No. 5 rye and No. 6 vodka. Only the vodka cup and brandy (now called Winter) remain in production with the original No. 1 cup still the most popular. To enjoy Pimm's No. 1, the best recipe is to take a pitcher and fill it with ice, mix one part Pimm’s No. 1 with 3 parts chilled lemonade, add some mint, cucumber, orange and strawberry.

A hot English summer's day, watching Wimbledon, the cricket or simply lazing in the back garden, one essential drink must be a glass of Pimms, an English summer drink through and through. The drink is apparently so popular it is often thought of as the number two English drink, tea of course being the first.

A bit of History 
Pimm's originated in an Oyster Bar in Poultry Street, in the City of London, owned by James Pimm in 1840. Here he created the Pimm's 'house Cup' flavored with liqueurs and fruit extract. He rapidly built up a chain of restaurants in a variety of locations, including The Old Bailey and other places "to be seen" for City businessmen of the day. James Pimm is said to have blended his famous 'No 1 Cup', on the premises and it was then sold in pints in pewter tankards. By 1859 Pimm's was on sale outside of the restaurants and in1865 the company was sold to Frederick Sawyer and the first bottle of Pimm's is sold for 3 shillings. 

The No 1 cup is as popular today as ever; the first Pimm's Bar opened at the world famous tennis tournament, Wimbledon in 1971 and today over 80,000 pints of Pimm's and lemonade are sold every year to spectators.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Three Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Tonight we hosted a barbecue for a few American families in our area. In total there were 20 people at our house and since it was such a beautiful day outside, we spent the majority of our time outside of the house. At one point during the barbecue, I walked inside our house and Scott was there too. He said, "Do you hear kids upstairs," and I said "No, I didn't think so." However, I said I would go upstairs to make sure. 

Sure enough, Scott heard correctly....there were indeed children upstairs and they had somehow made their way into our guest room where they were jumping up and down all over the guest bed! I broke out in laughter and quickly ran downstairs to tell Scott to come see the sight I had just seen. We both found it pretty amusing - especially because the kids probably felt like they were in heaven since they had not been caught - YET! I snapped a few photos before we politely had a mom come to take them back downstairs to play outside instead of on our guest bed. 
The three little monkeys jumping around on the bed! 
And then they started to hold on to the bed frame to jump up & down! Johnny, Jude and Emma are quite the characters!
The funny thing about this situation was that about an hour later, I saw two of these little ones sneak past us in the kitchen and I had a feeling they were back upstairs. Sure enough, Emma & Jude had made their way back up onto their own trampoline - our guest bed!! Kids are really quite quick...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Spider Killer

The residents of this country do not seem to kill their spiders. People are aghast when I say  I kill millions of spiders on a daily basis in my house (ok, maybe not millions but sometimes it feels that way because they are so gross!!). Because we are still having nice weather, our windows are open for part of the day when we are home. I am sure this creature crawled right in last night when the windows were open in our living room....
Would you keep him alive in the corner of your living room? Personally I cannot concentrate on anything else if I know there is a creepy spider sitting in the room. Sorry, but he got SQUASHED right after I photographed him for fond memories. ha! 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A warm weather weekend

We had the most beautiful weather this past weekend and so we enjoyed as much of it as possible outside. If all English summers are as pleasant as we've seen in this one so far, we are never going to want to leave!

Our house has a lot of hedges surrounding the yard (the English like their privacy fences, high hedges, and more). We initially inquired with our landlord about hiring a gardener and have kept the name of file in case we needed it. However, after our neighbor asked us if we needed a name of a gardener, we knew it must be time to get our hedges back in shape to keep up to the neighborhood standards! 
After we received a rough estimate on the cost from our neighbor's gardener, Scott opted for a do-it-yourself project. So, off to HomeBase (the Home Depot of the UK) we went to purchase a hedge trimmer, gloves and more, so he could embark upon his gardening duties.  
As you can see, the "before" version of our hedges was quite a messy sight....
So, with his newly purchased power hedge trimmer, Scott worked for TWO full days to trim the hedges surrounding our house. It required a ladder/step-stool and more because the hedges are so tall! I tried to rake the mess he made on the lawn but only lasted for a few hours. 
The "after" version of our hedges is much nicer and more clean looking. We had so many yard clippings from this project, that our trash bin overflowed and we had to take an extra trunk-full of hedge trimmings to the TIP. I am wondering if it was really worth the pounds we saved!?!?
Meanwhile, I spent time planting my little vegetable "garden" (of potted plants) in our back patio area. 
I have two containers of herbs, one container of strawberries, about 8 tomato plants in various pots out on our patio to grow. 
We also purchased this lovely new patio table & chair set so we can enjoy the nice weather and dine al fresco. We have been eating out there almost every night and it's wonderful! 
With the weather being so nice, it called for a taste of the US....iced tea. They drink a lot of tea over here, but unfortunately it will be difficult to order an iced tea in any restaurant around here. Taking matters into our own hands, we made sun tea for a refreshing taste of summer!