Fresh French Home

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Father and My Peace

As of late I have been neglecting my blog. I have a set goal of two posts a week, varying in content and theme. My thoughts were to gain a rhythm of writing and posting about the shop, design and gardening to create a connection of France and my aesthetic. This is still my pursuit but my postings have been slow, as of late. I have been busy and distracted by my father's recent health issues and it has been hard to "pull away".

My father is on the mend but he has spent the past 4 weeks in the hospital. Weeks ago he had a routine back surgery for pain which he has suffered from for years. He was discharged the day after but had to return to the hospital bed 5 days later for a complication. As the days progressed events become more and more complicated until he was literally at deaths door over 3 weeks ago. He is now in recovery but it will take him time, a lot of time, to fully recover. His doctor predicts a good 6-8 weeks before he will be able to go home and hopefully live the same life he did before the complications.

dad, aidan and me, circa 1985

As my sister and I have been caring for him with phone calls, visits and tearful conversations, the same picture and day with my dad keeps popping into my mind. It is the one pictured above, why this moment is engraved in my memory, I am not sure. I don't even remember it being an eventful day. I am sure the adults of that time might be able to say, but I cannot recall. But this image sits there, in my mind as I "see" to my father. 

At times, I am quite surprised of the grief I feel for my father's current weakness. My parents have not been together since I was a very young child. My sister and I both had visits with him throughout the years and for holidays and at one point in high school I lived with him. He was not a disciplinarian type parent and I probably had more freedom then I should have. But he changed his life for me and never once complained. In many ways I am like my father, the eyebrows, for better or worse and his eye for color and photography. After all, I have him to thank for at least 50% of myself! And thank him I do. I love you dad, now please get well!

little G and my father 2007
The events of the past few weeks has put many things in a different perspective.  It is a funny place to sit, caring for a parent. As you are forced to make very adult decisions and have very serious conversations, the child you once were is still there, in your heart, believing and daydreaming it will all turn out fine in the end. It just has to! 
But, age and time is quite real, isn't it?

Monday, March 18, 2013

La Jardin in March: Planning the Herb Garden

Spring brings gardening back to our lives. I have made mention of our love of gardening around here in a few earlier posts.  Before we were parents we spent almost every weekend hour in our gardens, we still spend hours outside but with little G we are easily distracted. But we still haul over to garden centers, nearly weekly, to see what wonderful things are in. 
little G and the start of our herb garden

Early Spring is the perfect time to begin planning and planting an herb garden. I have jotted down a few of our favorites we have used year after year. Mixed in are different uses for herbs, culinary, drinks and the wonderful ways herbs can help other plants in your garden. Keep in mind an herb garden can be in containers on your patio or as plantings in your garden beds. My favorite is to do both, mixing and matching for seasons of growing.

First thing to know is most herbs adore sun. Some will tolerate partial shade throughout the day, especially in a hot climate. Most are annuals but quite a few are perennials, coming back to the garden year after year.

A small list to begin your herb garden:

Basil: culinary, comes in various flavors from spicy to exotic pineapple. grows very quickly, will fill a space or container in no time. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love the colorful spikes. wonderful for proteins, soups and sauces. (love, wealth)!

Bee Balm: my T loves this plant. there is even a variety with our last name! comes in several colors, white, pinks, reds. a member of the mint family it grows tall and easily, hummingbirds adore it. they linger all day for refreshment. add to tea or lemonade for a zesty flavor. perennial, will revisit you every year. 

Chives: a very happy plant, easy to grow. excellent for containers. in the garlic family, add to veggies, soups and chicken salad. I always cut a few stems into my lettuce salads. great companion plant for roses (keeps away black spot and aphids). 

Echinacea or Cone flower: popular plant, huge variety. even a mama mia little G had to have last year. strong, upright plants, easy to grow as plantings or containers. a medicinal perennial herb but wonderful addition to the garden. butterflies love it! (strength)!

Dill: one of my favorites for cooking. easy to grow, will flourish in sun but needs water, almost daily in Summer heat. most excellent in salads, on poultry and seafood. another herb I cut directly in my salads, especially tuna, chicken salad. (luck, money, protection)!

Fennel: a very overlooked herb by most people. my mother in law introduced it to us. comes in a bronze variety that has brownish foliage which is a nice contrast to garden greens. licorice flavor, stalks similar to celery and can be steamed or added to soups and salads. great companion plant for roses as it attracts bugs and keeps them off your roses. butterflies also lay their larvae on the fennel stems. (healing, purification)!

Lavender: a favorite to many, me included. loved for it's fragrance and beauty. a perennial, it will flourish once planted attracting bees, butterflies and birds. you can harvest the flowers throughout the season and use for sachets, wreaths or simple arrangements. our Winters are so mild our plants have barely slept and are ready for warmth. consider planting by your front door for fragrance. (love, happiness)!

Mints: my favorite herb for so many reasons. it is prolific, will fill a space or container within days and continues to grow all season, even with neglect and hot weather. it grows in a wild fashion, drooping over containers and rocks, making it's own way, a bit "viney" and reckless. comes in so many flavors from lemon to chocolate. add to hot or iced tea, flavor waters with the sweet leaves or make your own version of a mojito with the many flavors available. (strength)!

Rosemary: another popular favorite. easy to grow perennial that loves sun and can grow huge! great for meats, veggies, cleans the air, another candidate for your front door. (healing, sleep, youth)!

Thyme: once known as the flower to fairies as they were said to use the small yet strong stems for protection. grows very "bunchy", compact but spreads beautifully. several flavors to choose from. great for soups, proteins. (health, courage)!

This is a small taste of herbs available at your garden center and a few of my favorites that we have planted year after year. Pick a few from my list, start small with patio containers or go big and design a full herb garden but either way enjoy them for what they can do for you and your garden. The birds and bees will thank you!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Soeurs de Coeur: Sisters

I am delighted to be here at Fresh French Home. As you know from reading Kate's blog, she is in the hard-working, thrilling and creative midst of making her 'daydreams' come true. Kate has been surprising and delighting me for years; from the first moment I saw her behind nursery glass and welcomed a sister into my life.

She has always made ordinary things beautiful. Her innate and incredible eye for design, color, finishing details, and spatial and visual properties has been honed and sharpened over the years. She has come a long way from the purple and silver wallpaper she insisted on having in her bedroom when she was five years old! Those were the purple years. But it comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Kate that she has dreamed of a shop like the one she's making in Fresh French Home. We are all so lucky to witness and share in it.

I'm here as a proud sister, but also because my family and I live in the South of France. Kate wants me to share some of our story and a bit of my life here with you. Living here has been the most wonderful experience for my children and my husband and me. I've written a blog about our lives since we arrived in 2010 and you can check it out and catch up on the ups and downs of life in another country, culture and most challengingly, language.

{my three at the market}
This February marked our third year in France. I've come to love the seasonal changes of this country as I've learned and experienced them over time. By March, the days grow longer and the sun shines brighter. We begin to see the first of the spring strawberries, bunches of radishes in sunset hues and perfect pink and white buds on fruit trees.

One of my favorite trees here is the mimosa. It isn't the mimosa with anemone sprays of pink flowers and fern-like leaves that grew in our grandmother's front yard in Carthage, Texas.

{mimosa flowers on my rue}
The southern French mimosa flowers the brightest sunshine yellow puffballs that grow in clustered bursts and smell of the sweetest spring day. They are the promise of months of sunshine ahead. A gift from Australia, the happy charm of the mimosa is celebrated with parades in its honor in Mediterranean coastal towns. France is good about celebrating nature and appreciating beauty for beauty's sake. This is one of the reasons Kate loves French design. Graceful utility is something the French (and Kate) do so well.

One last tidbit about the cheery, promising mimosa is one that includes a recipe because for me, life in France is nothing without the food.

The deviled egg as we know it in the US is called an oeuf mimosa here, named for its sunny yellow color. I love learning things like this, don't you? It makes sense that the French would name a springtime appetizer made with eggs and all they represent after this visual hint of wonderful, bright new things to come.

Oeufs Mimosas or Deviled Eggs

6 eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. white vinegar 
sea salt and white or pink ground pepper
In a saucepan, cover the eggs with fresh water and bring to a boil. As soon as the water comes to the boil, remove from heat and cover. Leave the eggs covered in the saucepan for 10 minutes. Rinse with cool water and peel. 
Cut the eggs in half carefully. Put the yolks into a bowl, reserving half of one for later. This is what makes them look like mimosa flowers.
Combine the yolks and the mayonnaise (homemade if you're French), mustard, vinegar and salt and pepper with the tines of a fork.
Wipe out the whites with a paper towel to remove any residual moisture.
If you want to be fancy you can pipe the yolk mixture into the waiting whites or if you're like me and have greedy fingers waiting, simply fill them gently.
Chop the reserved half yolk finely into a small dice and crumble over the top of the filled eggs.
And as my Littlest says, 'Voila!'