09 January 2012

Spring fever

Menu du jour

Kitchen closed.

Chef and Wife out to dinner.

Dinner Review: Meal sitting like a brick in my belly. It is hard to beat the home cooked meals. However, date night with hubby was worth the indigestion. 

zzz

summer garden party with friends
We live in a cottage. Our line of address reads Clarks Cottage. We live a quintessential English country existence.We have a private garden (“yard”), beautiful views of fields, and grazing cattle for neighbours. 

Our visitors often say that our home is straight out of the movie, The Holiday.  From the aspect of being on a quiet dead-end road and minimal square feet—I’d have to agree.

To let (“rent”) a home in England that:
  1. has a big enough bedroom to fit a queen sized bed--forget about a king,
  2. has a shower in which you do not have to use a handheld faucet to wash your hair,
  3. is not blanked in shag carpet that is a deeper shade of English rose,
  4. has wardrobes (“closets”) (Note: I did not say “walk-in”... those are rare if ever seen),
  5. allows dogs,
  6. allows babies,
  7. has neutral wall colours,
  8. is affordable,
... are few and (very) far between.

We had been looking for a rental for over a month when Clarks Cottage popped up on a property search. I called to arrange a viewing that same day. Properties go like hot cakes over here. Most rentals are spoken for before the agent has its entire listing on a website. After a first walk-through, I knew it was home. We delivered a deposit to the agency before the close of business that same day and exchanged keys a week later. 

We initially anticipated renting for six-months, determined to buy and (finally) get on the property ladder.  4½ years, a recession, high inflation and a baby later we are still in our two-bedroom cottage.



Recently, with Ouisie being mobile and a 50lb dog at my heels, all the time, the walls are starting to cave in. Things have gotten even smaller this week with Ouisie's discovery of everything inside our cabinets. Floor space is becoming more scarce as anything and everything is being pulled out, examined and flung around the rooms. 

Just to take away from the coveted "above ground" space, Carib is now sporting a pink cone around her head, 2ft in diameter, following (another) operation. On our third consecutive visit to the vet, after Carib (again) pulled out her stiches, she left with staples instead of thread, and a lamp shade around her neck.

"Houdini" is outsmarted
Carib should have been named Houdini. Over the years, she has wiggled herself out of several cones, chewed off bandages, freed herself of collars, and dug her way under chicken wire. This time, we have had to outsmart the magician by double knotting the halo to her collar. After great effort to try and get the cone off, she finally surrendered. The poor mutt just looks pathetic.

Ouisie found Carib's new head gear beyond amusing. I felt sheepish walking down the village’s high street with a laughing baby on one hip and a dog bumping into light posts as we made our way back to the car park. If the folks back home could see me now...

I am now being pinched and pulled by Ouisie’s finely attuned pincer graps and bumped and shoved by Carib’s shade.  In desperation for more square feet, I started searching this week for available properties to rent. I suddenly crave floor space! What I really think I lack is ten square feet and five minutes of my own personal space.

All the property searches have been futile. Same scenario nearly five years on. But, it has made me, again, appreciate our little doll house. For what it lacks in space, and modern appliances, it makes up for in a beautiful garden and the charming neighbours we have become acquainted with over the years.

I have called a halt to my property search and, instead, am focused on the spring and summer months ahead when the windows can once again be opened, picnic blankets laid on the lawn and playtime for both baby and dog can be out in the garden and out of the cramped family room. 


Let the countdown commence. Drum roll...only 72 days until 1st day of spring! Perhaps I should look to the nearer future first... only ten days until Carib is halo-free!! 

To every cramped living space, there is a silver lining. 


Spaciously yours,

Callie


02 January 2012

Firsts


Menu du jour

Christmas Dinner


Braised short ribs and seared foie gras
Canapes
Home smoked salmon with Champagne
Caviar with vodka

Starters
Native Oysters 

Main
Braised short ribs and seared foie gras
Pomegranate relish

Cheese
"Tartufette"-- truffled cheese

Dessert
Chocolate Truffles 
Maron Glaces (Candied Chestnuts-- Cyrille's favorite as a kid)

Boxing Day Dinner

Canapes
Foie Gras with truffle on toast

Main
Confit and roasted Hyden Farm Goose 
Medley of seasonal root vegetable


Dessert
Homemade Nougat, three flavours:
Pistachio, Apricot and Chocolate



Being married to a Chef has its perks as illustrated in the above menus. The downside is that he worked straight through the holiday. Fortunately for Ouisie, my belle mére, and me, he was home in time for dinner on Christmas Day and off on Boxing Day! Once again, an orchestra of gorgeous flavours that were decadent, delicious but all too dear to the waistline! 

.. ΑΩ ..


New Year's Day. The first day of 2012. In retrospect, every day in 2011 was a first day with our newborn daughter. We welcomed Ouisie at the end of January, and since that miraculous day we have been documenting each milestone with photographs, videos and journals. 

It always amazes me when I reflect on just how much the world shifts and changes in just 365-days. I realise that now with a child, I have been focused on the day-to-day routines than on the overall big picture. And in the 339-days Ouisie has been on this earth-- her world has been one constant shifting planet! 



Being a mom has given me a renewed outlook on life and I find such excitement in watching Ouisie learn and discover. From taking walks down the road to visit the farm's horses and cows, riding a carousel at the Christmas market, blowing bubbles in the swimming pool, to watching fireworks light up the sky; each have been such fun to experience anew. 

Through baby brain and wearied eyes, I have tried to be present in each moment over the past year, imprinting every detail into its own wrinkle in my brain. But just like all great memories, after just 11-months of having her in our lives, some of her firsts have blurred together and I am dumbfounded on how in 26 days our daughter turns one?


I look back at the first 10-weeks of motherhood and snicker at my anxious thoughts and unyielding efforts for perfection. After weeks of runny diapers, countless loads of laundry and round the clock breastfeeding, I was desperate for Ouisie to give some sign of affirmation. And then it happened- the first smile. It was just the two of us at home. My heart melted and, if I may admit, a few tears were shed at this precious sign of recognition. 

That smile has continued to shine alongside all of Ouisie's new findings. Over the summer months, I enjoyed laying quietly next to her on the picnic blanket looking up at the 400-year Oak tree in our garden. A tree I have grown to love and admire for four years, she noticed its majestic branches for the first time. 

Ouisie took her time in learning how to sit up. She never had any interest in rolling over, around or moving in any direction. Then suddenly while away on holiday in November, she decided it was time to get moving. Since then, there is no stopping her. With each day she pulling up more and more. It will not be long before she is scooting around on two legs rather than all four. 

With only weeks now before her birthday I want time to slow down. Like Cinderella who had to adhere to her midnight curfew, I, too must oblige. Ouisie's first birthday will mark the end of my maternity leave. My seven full days with Ouisie will then be just three. As her personality continues to shine through, and her quest for independence already evident, the butterflies in my stomach are settling as I know she is going to be okay. Time marches on and I must step back into my heels and keep up.



I am not one for making resolutions on the 1st January. Personally, they are bit too contrived. Instead, I always look at a new year as another chance to try something different, to learn more, to grow spiritually and emotionally and to always be grateful. The latter is the easiest. My cup runneth over. 

Just as Ouisie is finding her two feet, I, too, face the New Year standing tall and giddy (a bit nervous, if I am completely honest). 

My New Year's toast: 
To Ouisie, for being the brightest light in our lives. 
I love you, Mommy 

With best wishes for joy, love and adventure in 2012--

Bonne Année,

Callie  

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