I do a lot of drilling. Here in France, we don’t do “drywall.” Some people do, but they’re not keeping it real. Here in the heart of Gascony, we’re all about stone and concrete. Often, tile is placed over the walls for whatever reason. Our kitchen has tile. Above the tile, I’ve been going a little “grundtal” crazy with Ikea’s hanging rack thing-o things. Today, I hung a floating shelf (A Björk or Snork … can’t remember the name). Brent bought some pansy petal drill bit that fits in our drill used by mortals. The bit is especially made for drilling holes in tile. Okay, I have a shelf. It needs to be placed in the tile. I’ll use the special petal bit. I remove my screwdriver bit because that’s all I’ve ever used the sweet, little Ryobi for and place the new tile bit in. I drill. I drill and drill and drill. A teeny, tiny hint of a hole is forming. I drill some more. At last, I think I see a hole in the tile, but not enough room for a screw, let alone a plastic screw inner holder thing. Okay, fuck this … I’m getting my hammer drill. Two seconds, boom-boom-boom, done. In the ten minutes Ryobi drill is still coaxing the tile to acquiesce, I’ve made the holes, screwed the screws, hung the shelf and ready for more action. I love my hammer drill. I can’t believe I’ve lived this long without one.
I think Michael summed it up best as: the first meal he’s had where the beginning and the end looked exactly the same. The family went to the local fête for dinner and fun. We really enjoy these events. It’s a chance to meet people in our village as well as their families. It’s also a chance to let loose and boogie on the dance floor. The event feels very much like a wedding reception without the wedding part. There is always live music. Tonight’s feast offered great tastes of the region featuring specifically “demoiselle de canard.” What is that? Larousse Gastronomique offered no help. Brent and Michael provided a quick translation for “demoiselle.” Yeah boys, I figured that one out. What will we be EATING? The best way to understand demoiselle de canard is to experience it. To describe it would not do the dish justice. Our animated dining neighbors said that it was a Gascon specialty (Michael researched it earlier so it must be true). What do you do with the ducks that have no breasts, no legs and no fatty liver? You roast them with salt and pepper to create a little meaty treasure hunt. I totally enjoyed it and I think I knocked off at least six boney units.
Throughout the evening, two people sang very well. Popular French hits (and a few in English) were seriously audible along with the people dining as they sang along. The entire room, young and old belting out Bad Romance was a moment I will not forget. Michael had fun and then made faces. Brent’s mum managed to get two kids to sleep while waiting for the actual meat of the duck to arrive. Otto ran around like a nut (that’s him holding a gun next to the singing lady. Sigh. But please note, all the kids run around like that at these events. It’s all part of the fun.). Brent took Lucy to the disco. Sadly, Brent and I never grabbed our opportunity to boogie. Too many sleeping kids and early mornings. A man wearing a beret offered me a splash of Armagnac. I accepted without hesitation.
I’m not one to complain. I can bitch, certainly. I can go on and go about something that annoys me like say … fruit salad that comes with a mound of melon and one grape or “trail mix” which really means peanuts and raisins. But take away my dishwasher!!! Are you fucking kidding me?!?! I was okay waiting for parts. I was okay using a broken dishwasher that actually cleaned dishes, but the computer told you otherwise. The art of washing-up was quaint. The quaintness has now passed. Monsieur Smeg has taken my magic silver box to the homebase to be returned working perfectly. At this point, after three visits from a technician and however many parts, I’d say, “Give me a new one!!!” Damn-it implied. We wait. Waiting for the call that my “lava vah-seel” will return. In the meantime, we wash. Nana is visiting and I think she’s not impressed. She’s been helping with our family wash-up. When I reach for a plate that could have been avoided, I can feel a look. She would rather we eat my freshly made violet ice cream on our green chicken curry plates than break out some dessert bowls.
Okay. I’m done here. Move along. Nothing to see here.
(photo by Brent’s mum. This is France)
Brent’s mum is in town and what better way to show her around than to take her to a country music festival in France. Michael went the day before and said the festival was worth going to. Evidently, this is the biggest country music festival in Europe, but I’ll let Michael take care of that detail. Personally, all I know is that something cool was happening in a nearby village. Brent said, “Wear your hat! Wear your boots!” I was more in the mood to be a spectator rather than a participant. I didn’t even bring my camera! And did I regret it. The drive to Mirande is gorgeous. Except everywhere from my house is gorgeous. The sunflowers are in full pride. The hay is baled. The grass is green. It couldn’t get more France. On our way we saw an old man wearing a béret riding a bike uphill. I told Brent’s mum to grab her camera as we passed the peloton and gave a shout-out to Lance.
(an older Country Music Festival poster)
(white hat. M. America. photo by me with what appears to be a smudge of mayo from Lucy’s frites)
Arriving in MIrande was calm. One step into the festival was bizarre. We quickly shifted from bérets to cowboy hats. The leather was full on. Boots. Chaps. Harley Davidson. Howling wolves. A man with spurs carrying a shotgun … oh yeah. Then some music began. Folks from all around quickly gathered for some honest to goodness line dancing. It was all so real until you hit the foie gras on a bun stand served with wine. There were two memorable moments for me. It was in the song “Sweet Home Alabama” which for some reason, I’ve heard quite a bit. When the band hit the chorus, you realize they don’t speak English in “What.” Instead of “Sweet home AlaBAHma,” you hear “Sweet home Al-Ah-Bah-Mah” equally emphasized. It’s me singing Frère Jacques in reverse. The other moment was watching Captain America dance. He was great. I’d say he had a lot of River Dance training. He was very good and impeccably dressed. On our way out, a man riding a decked out three wheeler motor chopper dealio drove by. Lucy bought a braclet. Food, folks and fun. I think I will have to go next year, but this time in my boots and hat.
Nothing brings home the fact that you have four kids like summer vacation. Cute little blog blurbs gone by the wayside as Brent and I move to “zone defense” mode. Let me tell you here and now. When you have four little kids
1) you no longer dice your onions
2) the “idle parent” is your M.O.
3) email turn around can sometimes be days
4) sit-still-and-read rooms are essential
In the interest of catching up, here’s where we’re at …
The kids have now graduated from FredMeyer Rubbermaid splash pool cuz mom-is-a-paranoid-freak about pools and young kids, to a water dish for cows. The big mooey girls use a large, blue plastic tub for their water. We bought a back-up dish should anything go wrong. The kids fill it up and splash and play during our hot months. This keeps me on pool arrest for an hour or so. I like to time it in the early evening, before dinner so I can grab a book and a little Floc to pass the time. Sitting down with the workload we have takes some convincing. The kids usually spend an hour splashing. I run off and make dinner after they’re done. We eat. Then they go for a late evening splash. It’s been a great summer so far.
The cows got a pedicure. Each year, the toenails of our herd need to be cut. Brent and I like to keep things real and are wondering how this would happen were they roaming free in the wild. In the meantime, the nail man will come around and make sure their nails are trimmed and clean. Once we get the cow race and squeeze gate setup in our buildings, I’m thinking I might take on resident nail trimmer lady. It involves the use of a power tool which is always a plus.
Pulled pork made with really good pork is intense. Brent butchered a pig a few months ago. It’s a “Noir de Bigorre.” A tastey black pig of the region. It turns out that American pulled pork has more to do with the BBQ sauce than the pork. I made this beauty of a dish the other night and the flavor of the pork upstaged the BBQ sauce. I could have used way less sauce. BUT … I think it tasted great. Should you try pulled pork at home, keep in mind the quality of your pig. The higher the quality, the less sweet saucey distraction is needed.
Broody hen has found her calling. Our neighbors popped by to let us know they had some kittens that were born that day and did we want some. We told them that we were at full-kitten-count so we couldn’t take on any more. They also had twelve baby chickens that they needed to find a home for. We immediately said that we’d take them! After waiting twenty days for little Broody to hatch her eggs only to loose them all to magpies and rats on day twenty-one, we were pleased to bring some chicks to the farm. Brent went over to get them a week or so later. Twelve little peeping birds arrived. We stuck them in Chicken Tiki with Broody. For three days she was a grumpy, old hag pecking at them and grumping at their presence. The chicks were persistent. On day four, Brent and I peeked in and little Ms. Broody was cuddled in with the silly little chicks. Her wings spread wide to keep them warm, she sat tall protecting them. Day five we let them out in a netted area. She would scratch a bit of soil and the chicks would come running to peck out the grubs, bugs and worms. Today, she is out and about teaching them how to be a chicken. Kevin and the other chickens sometimes come close to investigate. Broody puffs up big and chases them off protecting her family. She’s a good mum.