29 September 2012

Foraging Finds: Autumn

As window shopping is hard to come by on my quiet English country lane, I find most of the seasons "must haves" on display in the forests surrounding our cottage.

This year a mild winter, a rainy summer and a hot autumn resulted in little mushrooms.While the heavenly ceps and girolles have boycotted the Hampshire forests this year, to Cyrille's delight he spotted the below beast  of a Cauliflower Fungus resting at the base of a pine tree leaving work at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire this week:

The above mentioned mushroom weighed in a 7.5 kg (16.5 lbs). It could best be described as a giant piece of coral. It is soft and spongy to the touch.

The Cauliflower Fungus is found from late summer to autumn and its versatile use allows it to be added to soups, sautéed on its own  or Cyrille's favorite-  sautéed in a light tempura batter.

Last night Cyrille prepared a sample of the mushroom simply sautéed with butter, oil and garlic. It was meaty and rich in earthy flavors. I would love to try it in a wild mushroom risotto as its texture would be a nice complement.

While the British summer was a fair weather friend to the seasonal fruits and vegetables, it made for some very plump and sweet blackberries this autumn. 

Our pricked fingers and purple stained hands resulted in canned jars of jam to take us right into spring. Though lovely on their own, Cyrille made a batch with rhubarb which hit a perfect cord on my palate.

You may recall earlier this spring I mentioned how things were all a buzzz here in Hampshire. Seems the bees settled right in and awarded us with some mighty fine honey. The bees' preferred nectar in 2012 was English heather whose subtle flavor is noted in the pot.

They're back! Get them on the half shell and enjoy these aphrodisiacs right through early spring! We celebrated the start of their season with a plate of native Colchester for dinner last night. Delicate and fresh... Serve chilled with just a squeeze of lemon juice.

Tomorrow we head to the Winchester Farmers' Market to see what seasonal produce is up for sale. With cooler nights ahead, I find nothing more comforting than hearty dishes displaying the seasons best in show. More on that later...

Bon appetit,

Callie x

28 September 2012

When Nature Calls

At 20-months Eloise's vocabulary is expanding by the minute. Some words naturally roll off the tongue like  I do it, hold it, silly...sorry Others require a more agile clapper like the tongue twisting chorus how why won-d wha chew are of "Twinkle Twinkle".

We are raising her to (hopefully) be bilingual in French and English (perhaps Texan). Already some things she refers to only in French which I find cute and amusing.

Tatine (pacifier) Dodo (sleep) Couche (diaper) Soleil (sun) Câlin (cuddle)
Fleur (flower) Merci (thank you) Bonjour (hello) Bisous (kiss) Bravo (well done)

grasping toilet paper's wonders
The bilingual teachings were going swell until while on holiday my belle mere introduced the term-- caca. As the word sounds- it refers to poo poo.

Boasting one of the most beautiful languages, could the French not have thought of a more flowery term? After all, they're the ones that  made toilet water sound posh by calling it eau de toillete.

Unfortunately, Eloise's interpretation of caca includes all body parts south of the belly button and anything that passes from them. Every time nature calls or she re-discovers her couche she ensures I, too, am fully aware.  I keep a tatine on the ready for popping in her mouth to muffle the announcement as and when it is aired to the wider public. In addition to the the fascination of her own bowel movements, she is captivated by our dog's private bits and eagerly reports back on any witnessed yard sprinklings.

walking to dinner, Four Seasons Hotel London
On a recent stay in London, we treated my mom to a lovely dinner at Amaranto. The staff could not have been more accommodating to Eloise. Not only did the restaurant provide her with her own plate, cup and utensils they also offered her an iPad. Though a nice modern touch, the basket of bread sticks and cup of shaved ice topped her list.
happy diner at Amaranto

As the meal progressed passed 10pm, Eloise was ready to faire dodo. One observant waiter took note and came to serenade Eloise a calming Italian lullaby. With sleepy eyes she gazed up at him while lifting her beautiful dress and cooed "caca". The waiter looked puzzled and I was in shock. I apologized to the waiter while Eloise continued to inform all the diners of the play-by-play action taking place inside her couche--- Caca! CACA! As her decree crescendoed, I enticed her to stop with a chocolate biscotti and more shaved ice as my husband asked for l'addition, s'il vous plaît! 

potty talk
Earlier this month I bought a potty training seat as a means to an end for expanding her potty talk. She, nor I, are quite ready to embark on potty training but I thought as she is consumed by the topic we should explore other conversations surrounding the 'throne'. 

To date our potty talk chats have defined what is a po po and how tee-tee is different from poo. Sadly, when nature calls, Eloise still answers with, caca Mommy! 


Callie x

27 September 2012

Home Alone

Today is my day. No, not my birthday. Just a day all to moi.

The only rule: NO housework.  

quiet afternoon writing in conservatory
Without being selfish, I am trying to avoid loosing track of Me.

As a mom/wife, we are meant to keep up with the child, the dog, the laundry, bills and (even) the husband. But in doing so we cannot lose our identity.

Of late I have begun to feel that I am becoming bland. Following the birth of our daughter in January 2011, I have had my head burrowed in the sandbox and find grocery lists of excuses for not getting a gym membership, skipping my 8-week maintence hair cut and accepting the tired state of my wardrobe.

I realised how far I'd drifted when my husband surprised me with a date night at a fancy dig in London a few months ago.

It was a black tie event and I had the option of wearing either a decent pair of heels or a dress. As I stared at my ghostly closet, I debated over renting a tux; at least it was a guaranteed match. In the end I opted to go dressed in a striking red wrap dress and some neutral heels that blended into my untanned legs. 

As I tried to style my unrulely mane, I hoped dim lighting in the dining room would aid in shadowing my mousy brown roots. I made a vow to my candid reflection to call first thing in the morning for the next available appointment with the stylist.

Last week my husband insisted I leave the daily chores and go out for some time on my own. Unsure of what to do, I went for a 1.5-mile swim. I cannot remember the last time I went for a swim. At least 2-years. I felt so alive and strong swimming in the pool. My heart was elated to be elevated and pumping my body lap after lap. My spirits remained lifted the rest of the day and I loved feeling the light aches in my muscles the next day.

a fitter me and Carib, 2004. the source hike, nevis, west indies
Once a week Eloise goes to the childminder where she loves hanging with some older toddlers and the pet rabbit- "Toffee." I drop her off knowing we both will love seeing each other (even more) at the end of the day.

Two hours until pick up time. This leaves just enough time to take Carib out for a jog with the sun who decided to come back out and play.


Callie x

25 September 2012

Fresh Coat

Last month I (again) retired my office heels and business suits to the storage closet. In anticipation of shorter days and cooler temps, resulting in more indoor playtime, I opted to use the late burst of English summer sunshine and my mom's visit from overseas for retouching up some weathered areas in our cottage. 

Being back full time with Eloise at the cottage was reason enough to alleviate some of the eye sores grating on my nerves for the past months. Nothing is worse than staring at a chipped wall day after day imagining how a splash of COLOR could uplift one's spirits. 

I equate it to getting your hair highlighted. You don't realize how bad your roots are until the foils have done their magic. Only upon leaving the salon and catching a glimpse of your reflection in a passing mirror do you then kick yourself for waiting so long. 
color board inspiration through travel and day dreaming designs

During my mom's visit last month she gave me the final motivational pep talk for convincing me that our cottage was do for a mini makeover. The thing about enhancing one room is that it inevitably reveals others in need of a boost. 


swing time: 'tootsie' and eloise
One feature wall expanded to 5 walls throughout 4 rooms using 2 shades of paint. A dedicated afternoon turned into three full days with countless trips back and forth to the hardware store to buy more brushes, drapes, tape and paint. My husband arrived home each evening to discover new splashes of color and two bleary-eyed painters sipping on well earned G&Ts. 
 kitchen sink bath due to DIY project in bathroom

Inevitably, the painted walls highlighted the neighboring walls' and trims' needs for touch up resulting in (another) return to the local B&Q for a bucket of white paint concealer.

Then with the concealer applied, it seemed that the baseboards' dust was thicker and the ignored rust marks on the towel heater had spread. The recently purchased green bath towels contrasted too much against the soft sage green feature wall…progress was happening but now only a complete refurbishment would do!

my artist in training
As I was about to start frantically searching for new curtains on John Lewis' website, I found Eloise calmly drawing with a hot magenta crayon on the wooden floors. 

Reality slapped me back down and I declared an immediate halt on any further home DIY projects until Eloise is (at least) five years old and we become homeowners. 

I am hopeful the two will coincide allowing us to at least save on polishing the floors and leaving some extra cash for re-upholstery. 



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