Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Quiet Day

Today we stayed close to home . . . somewhat of a requirement because Grom did not wake up 'til almost 10:00am! Jet lag.

We managed to get our shopping done, dragging Dude along to Gran Frais & Carrefour. Then, Dado made us a yummy BBQ lunch: Salmon for the grown ups & burgers for me and the kiddies. I must tell you, Dado makes this yummy lunch for us regularly. I am spoiled!

When we were finally ready to leave the house (somewhere around 2:00pm!), we headed out to Mas du Novi (Domain Saint-Jean du Noviciat), which is a spectacular winery about 20 minutes away. They provide a fabulous tour of the winery and the chapel (from the 13th century) along with the wine tasting. The woman who provides the tour recognizes us now, and it is really fun to chat with her.

Here are some great pics . . .

And Dude looking stylish among the fut de chene (oak barrels). This is where they let the red wine rest - 12 months in the oak barrels followed by 12 months in the bottles. There are 600 barrels, and each barrel provides 250 bottles of wine. Wow.

Here are some more cool pictures from the winery visit . . .


Later, back at home, we were joined by our friends Sabrina & Cyrielle. It was very interesting to have all of us adults around the table - Sabrina & Cyrielle speaking only French, Dude speaking only English, Grom understanding and speaking a bit of French, and me and the Dado translating. Comical! However, I did feel like I've come a mightly long way with my French since this time last year. Yay!

Now, it's time for bed here in France. Tomorrow - Carcassonne!

Love to all!!

Montpellier & Le Pont du Diable

Day 2 with Grom & Dude was interesting. We had planned to spend the day in Carcassonne, but we were rained out of those plans. Plan B was to wander around the historical parts of Montpellier, including lunch out.

Plan B was not quite as interesting as we hoped it would be. Thus, I only have one great photo to impress you with. This is the inside of an artisan succette store (lollypops!). Aren't the colors beautiful?

Following our Montpellier visit, we managed to make it to a winery near St. Guilhem le Desert. The kids and I played outside while Dado, Dude & Grom had the tour & tasting. They were not impressed with the wine, but they discovered what they called the world's best balsamic vinegar. It is rather delicious!

Because we were so close to St. Guilhem le Desert, we decided that we simply had to show Dude Le Pont du Diable. We brough Grom, Julie & Alex there last year, but it was all new to Dude.

Isn't it amazing?And there is the Dado!

More to come soon!

Love to all!!

Grom & Dude Are Here!!

My parents arrived for their visit on the evening of Dec. 26th, and we are thrilled to have them here in Bouzigues!

We spent the first full day in Roquebrun. Of course, we had to have a bonfire on the beach, which kept Dado & Dude occupied.

We all took turns enjoying the heat.

Grom, the kids, and I built a great rock fort.

Next, we headed for Dado's favorite winery: Domain La Croix Sainte Eulalie. We discovered this winery in October 2008 while my dad was here for his first visit. We've been back several times since then, and we love the wine & the owners.

Merci a Agnes et ses parents pour les kiwis et les vins! While I type this blog, Dado, Dude, and Grom are joyfully drinking a bottle of Jade.

It was a perfect adventure day!

Love to all!!

Christmas Day Chez Nous

Joyeux Noel . . . Merry Christmas . . . Happy Holidays!

Christmas Day was delightfully quite and peaceful. Of course the children woke up early to open presents, and we frolicked in our pajamas until lunch.

Here are some great shots of Josey! In the first, she is opening the mouse I knit for her, and she is wearing a Christmas headband I knit for her. In the second, she's just being beautiful.

And here are some cute pictures of Max. In the first, he's opening the penguin I knit for him. In the second, he's just being adorable.

And here is the Dado! He is admiring Max's new science kit in the first shot, and he is opening the sweater I knit for him in the second.

Sorry, no pictures of me (since I was holding the camera) and no pictures of Alex (she has a new boyfriend, thus she did not want to journey to France for the holidays).

Here is a shot of Max and Josey on the terrace on Christmas evening.

I want to thank all of you who helped make our Christmas fantastic! And special shouts out for the great gifts we received from . . .
  • Grandma Pat- yay! a new knitting book for me and a spectacular dinner in Paris!
  • Mark, Susie & Sean - yay! new cool pants & tunics for me!
  • Sophie - a gift certificate to a nature store in France!
  • Sandra, Jean-Louis & Michelle - lovely Lush bath products!
  • Everyone who emailed - thank you!!
And just to think that there will be even more presents to open when my parents arrive. Wahoo!

Love to all!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve Chez Brun

We had a wonderful time at Sandra & Jean-Louis on Christmas Eve. Sandra outdid herself with dinner!

First, she made my favorite salad in all the world: sauteed geziers and figs with foie gras.

She baked a stuffed turkey with delicious veggies and potatoes . . .

And fun & games were had by all!

Unfortunately, I did not get good pictures of all the fabulous gifts! We were very spoiled . . . Mike now has 3 bottles of the best wine from Bordeaux, I have many baths worth of super yummy smelling Lush bath goodies (I can't wait to use them!), and the kids each have some great new toys. Max really, really, really wanted to start his Sea Monkeys today, but it's too cold for them to survive. :) Thus, one of his presents will be enjoyed in the spring. How lucky is that?

Merci mille fois Sandra, Jean-Louis, Michelle, Victoria & Noah! We had a wonderful time, and we are very grateful to have you as family.

Love to all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

C'est Noel!

It's Christmas! We made Gingerbread cookies for Christmas gifts for the kids' teacher (including the Judo teacher) and neighbors.

Let me tell you, it's difficult to find molasses in France! And of course, molasses is required for Gingerbread cookies.

Then we made our traditional Sugar Cookies with Sophie! These, of course, will be for Santa. We will also bring some to Sandra's house tomorrow for the Christmas Eve party. Yay!

News Flash!
The kids just delivered cookies to our elderly next-door neighbors, and guess what?! They returned with a plate full of handpainted Christmas ornaments!! How cool is that? As Dado said, "Mommy will keep those for the rest of her life."

Here are two . . .

If only Alex was here, too. It's sad to make Christmas cookies without her.

Love to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I would like you to meet Louise

I finally have a picture of my friend Louise, so I would like to introduce her to all of you.

Louise and I met via a wonderful website called Ravelry. It is a website for fiber fiends (knitters, crocheters, etc.).

A few months before we moved to France, I posted a note on Ravelry - on a group for knitters in France. It turns out that Louise lives in Montbazin, which is about 15 minutes from Bouzigues. Louise is originally from New York state, but she has lived in France for 11 years and St. Barts island for 11 years before that. She kindly invited me to her house when we arrived in France, and she and I have been knitting together most Tuesday afternoons ever since.

She and her daughter Chloe came over for dinner Friday evening. Louise brought two delightful things . . .

An adorable baked village

And my Christmas gift - gorgeous handspun yarn!

For those of you who know nothing about spinning yarn, this beautiful hank of yarn represents dozens of hours of spinning . . . more time than I can even fathom! I plan to knit myself a small shawl, which I will wear with absolute joy & delight!

Thank you very much, Louise! For the fabulous yarn and for the fabulous knitting afternoons. I'm glad we found each other.

Side note . . . That cute turquoise cowl that Louise is wearing is something I knit for her last Christmas. The sweater she is wearing is one of her hand knits.

Love to all!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Day of Wonderful Surprises

Wow. What a great day! We received two packages from the US today filled with surprise gifts.

My Aunt Dianne read my birthday post, and she felt bad that she hadn't sent me a gift. Silly DiDi! Of course my blog post was not meant to inspire guilt in anyone. Of course I forgive you. More than that! I was absolutely tickled by all your thoughtful - and highly usable - gifts. You rock! Thank you so very much.

DiDi sent me . . .
  • A new knitting stash enhancement of 2 balls of Rowan Kidsilk Haze in a gorgeous pink colorway. Wow! I can't wait to knit with that beautiful yarn. Perfect selection!!
  • A stash of personal products that I simply can't find the equivalent of here in France. My mom's idea was perfect, Di. Now I don't have to ask her to bring more when she arrives in December. Too funny!
  • A cool, handmade "scrappy sack". This sits over the arm of a chair, so my knitting supplies are always within reach. I love this! If you can't tell in the photo, the fabric actually has balls of yarn printed all over it.

My mom sent Max and Josey . . .

Handmade scarves and hats in Christmas colors. Adorable and perfect for the chilly weather. And I loved her note . . . "Every stitch was made with love, so when you wear them, it will be like Grom was wrapping you in a big, warm hug."
They fit perfectly!

Thanks Grom & Di for making our day. It's hard to communicate with words just how much fun it is to get surprises from home in the mail. Do you remember . . . when you were little, and you got a card in the mail? Do you remember how exciting that was? Especially if there was a little surprise tucked inside, too? Well, that just begins to explain how we feel when we get love from home.

Merci mille fois!

Love to all!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Video!! The Billat's Bonfire at Roquebrun

Okay . . . for those of you who miss seeing Max, Josey, and Dado in action - here's your chance.

This is my first time recording video on Dado's iPhone, my first time making said video into a movie, and my first time posting the resulting video to my blog.

Let me know what you think. It's a little blurry, but if you like it, I can do this again.

Love to all!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

High Speed Chase in Bouzigues?

Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but it's true!

Try to picture this scene . . .

You are sound asleep at 2:19 AM on a Thursday morning, when BANG! CRASH!

To me, growing up in California, I thought it must have been an earthquake. But no, there was a car running right outside our house. It certainly wasn't an earthquake.

Mike's first bleary, sleepy idea was that the recycle truck dropped a lot of glass, but we instantly realized that the noise was far too loud and crazy to be explained by the recycle guys - unless they crashed into the house at the same time!

Next we hear voices mixed with the sound of the running car. The noise all sounded so close (like, inside our house!!) that Mike ran downstairs to see what was going on.

There was a car running, with the door open, and it was so close to our house that the opened car door was mere inches from our front door.

Apparently, some man performed a hold up somewhere nearby (I have no idea where since pretty much everything is closed at that time here in Midi!), and he was running from the gendarmarie! He was obviously a rather stupid thief because he headed straight into the super narrow streets of our tiny village.

Reminder: The street in front of our house is so narrow that a Chevy Suburban might not fit - I kid you not.

The man literally ricocheted off of potted plants and cement planters in the street before he finally hit the last house before the street turns - total of about 50 feet, start to finish.

He hit that house so hard that his car bounced backward (leaving shattered glass everywhere) and came to rest inches from our front door - literally. He ran instantly, leaving the car running.

After 20 minutes, the car finally ran out of gas (we guess), but in that 20 minutes it spread oil everywhere - all over the street, splattered against our house & some other houses. Ewww.

In the pictures below, I'm standing on our front step looking toward the point of impact in the first. In the second, I'm standing across the street from our house to get the wide angle shot of the front of our house & the point of impact.

See how close he was?!

When the tow truck finally hauled the car away around 5:30 AM, it left a trail of oil all the way from our house back to the church.

In this picture, I'm standing in front of our house looking back down the street, in the direction of the church.

The gendarmarie also left behind all the broken glass . . . all the garbage that had been spread along the street when the car ricocheted . . . everything. So, when the sun was out Thursday morning, everyone headed outside to clean up in front of their homes.

You know what was amazing? The house the car actually hit is completely unmarked! There isn't even an obvious scratch in the paint of that home! I'm glad because a very, very old woman lives there. Now we know another advantage of having a home built of stone about 200-300 years ago - they were built to last.

Pretty crazy, eh?

Love to all!