22 November 2005

House Update

Here are some update photos from our work on the house. Please note the ongoing struggle with wallpaper...peeling, cleaning, plastering!

21 November 2005

Trimestre controle

In our old life, we would be preparing both to stuff a bird and ourselves. The slow winding towards Christmas. Here in France, we are in the midst of Trimestre Controle...better known as "How to Torture Your Children in 5 Short Days"

The French school system is based on biweekly exams with a full week of testing three times a year. It is a great way to both teach the children better study habits and to make sure that they are truly understanding the subjects, but to our children...it is torture with a capital T! And to make it truly fun, Celia had her week of testing last week and Nathan has it this week. The tests are truly long and difficult. For example, Nathan has a two hour Math exam, a 90 minute Science exam and a 60 minute German exam today. This continues for Tuesday and Thursday. The saving grace is that there is no school on Wednesday and Friday they are off to Toulouse to the Space Center for a well deserved break.

It has been a great learning experience for Nathan and Celia and Mom to learn how to schedule all of this as well as how to cram all of the information in their brains. They seem to be doing incredibly well.

So while you all are enjoying your turkey on Thursday, give a short prayer for Nathan as he struggles through his History, English and Spanish exams.

14 November 2005

Goodbye Dad!

As you can see from our blog, there was a dry spell there for a while. My dad passed away at the end of October. For those of you that did not know his story, he had a heart transplant in his 40's and lived many more years than we were originally given. While his passing was sudden and really truly unexpected due to his miraculous existence, he was given a final gift of a release from hospitals and drugs and doctors. I would like to thank everyone for their support, prayers and words during this rough time. I think the poem that my lovely friend and minister, Patti, gave me is so perfect:

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly.
Spaces fill with a kind of soothing
electric vibration.
Our senses, restored,
never to be the same,
whisper to us.
They existed.
They existed.
We can be.
Be and be better.
For they existed.
Maya Angelou

Wine Tasting

The winemaker's prayer basically says God give me a healthy life, love from time to time, work not too often, but good wine all the time!

This was an incredible day full of what we love best about this country. We drove out to the countryside and discovered some new wineries...Domaine Devois du Claus, Emeritage and Zimbaum-Tomasi. Wine tasting here is such a wonderful and intimate view into the French culture. The tasting is free and the winemaker will take as much time as desired to ask all questions, give tours of the caves and explain each of their wines with great pride and incredible knowledge. We feel so fortunate to be able to communicate with these incredible artisans about their trade.

The restaurant that we stumbled upon was just as incredible as the wine tasting. It was like having lunch with the chef/owner at his own house. He brought each course out with a full story of its origination and subtleties. Mary Z, Mike F and our friends Sue and Niel had an incredible menu consisting of
An aperitif of a fresh peach liquor made by the chef
Foie Gras terrine made by the chef himself This was served with a wonderful local bread of honey and possibly dates spiced with cinnamon and cardamon and accompanied by a Muscat de Lunel
Lotte - a white firm monkfish - served with two types of wild mushrooms picked by the chef. The fish was fresh off of the boat locally on Friday.
A cheese plate including chevre that had been herbed with the wild herbs of the garrigue (the woodsy area surrounding us) and blue cheese that would have knocked our noses to the next country had we not already been drowsy with the wine.
Before the dessert, the chef brought us a marc that had been steeped with pine needles and a marc steeped with the local wild thyme from the wilderness around the restaurant.
Dessert included homemade ice cream flavored with the local honey and every fruit the chef had in his garden including abricot, plums, peach, and many other fresh fruits, a cake made with a chestnut ganache, flan flavored with wild thyme, anise mousse cake.

With every course, we were regaled with his stories of how he created the courses and where he harvested the ingredients. He was very interested in the organic qualities of the ingredients, but organic here is more closely defined as not interrupting the natural process...such as only milking the animals for the cheese when they are in their natural cycle of supplying milk.

We quickly noticed that our's was the only table to receive such intimate information. All others ordered, were served and left as in a normal restaurant. We were at lunch from 12:30 until 4 pm. This was no mere lunch! We feel so incredibly fortunate to have experienced this event.

The picture is how they were at the moment...a little fuzzy from all of the wonderful wine. This is Niel and Sue with Mike F and Mary Z.

Roman Aqueduct

This is the roman aqueduct in Castries...a town next to Sussargues. It is still working. It is a beautiful architectural masterpiece.

Tourists again

Thanks to Mary Z for visiting us and letting us become tourists again. We have immersed ourselves in life as usual and are very happy to become camera happy tourists. These pictures are taken in Millau which is home to a very incredible engineering feat. The bridge is simply mind blowing. The town of Millau is very charming and beautiful.