30 January 2013

Panniers plat du jour: Madeleines


To celebrate Ouisie's second birthday, my husband baked a favourite gouté from his childhood to take to her French playgroup. These sweet little sponge cakes are quick and easy to make and kids (and adults) L♥VE them!

The one thing you need to guarantee a successful batch is a Madeleine tray. They come in a variety of styles and prices. Cyrille prefers working with silicone trays for even baking. Madeleine trays can be found in many culinary stores like Sur la Table or Williams Sonoma.

22 January 2013

Then came the dog

Just as the playground banter used to jest, it too, is written:
First came love.
Then came marriage. 
Then came the dog. 
'Carib'
Some nine years ago, in the span of five days, I married, got a new surname and became a resident on a remote Caribbean island.

After the novelty of the island wore off, I became desperate to find friends to socialize with during my husband's long work shifts; and, in need of a guard to keep the jungle's wild out of the garden.

To celebrate our first month and Valentine's Day, I prepared a lavish dinner and filled the home with twinkling candlelight for my new beau.

In return, my husband surprised me with an orphaned pup to help end my isolation. The evening's romantic spark was soon snuffed out by high pitched whimpers from her laundry basket bed.

Like a new parent, my daily routine came to an abrupt halt. Days previously spent pining were filled with potty training, visiting the vet, breaking bad behaviour and ensuring the neighbouring monkey troop did not bully the helpless canine.

In time, 'Carib' became both the gatekeeper to our home and my best pal. She patiently listened to my island woes and tolerated my off-key singing. We hiked the jungles, walked the beaches and ran errands in town together.

Whereas most island dogs spend their lives tied to a coconut tree "fending off" intruders, Carib was the lucky one who got away. With her passport in paw, she wagged good-bye to her island roots.


Then came the baby carriage (seven years later).

16 January 2013

No Cows in London

borrowed image http://www.demotix.com, rush hour at London's Waterloo 12.10.12
I claim to be a long lost city citizen. I've now been a resident in the English countryside for 5.5 years. Before that, I was an island dweller for 3.5 years. Added together: that's 9 years outside a metropolitan area.

When we first moved to England I was determined to find a job in London. After months of pounding the pavement, I anxiously joined the commuters waiting in their sleepy stupors for the morning train, squished against strangers on the underground, and raced to the bus stop in pursuit of arriving to the office on time.

The city's buzz soon drowned into a repetitive hum of a daily three-hour commute, extortionate fares and no time for happy hour with colleagues before my return train left Waterloo Station. I lasted seven months.

While I traded iridescent light for moonlight, the city's energy continued to resonate in me.

We recently treated ourselves to a much needed weekend country-scape. In just an hour's drive we were in the aorta of London.
on board the big red bus
waddling along the Serpentine, Hyde Park
We scavenged for treasures on the crowded streets of Portobello Market, window shopped along High Street Kensington, took a winter's walk in Hyde Park, shared a pint with some locals and enjoyed dim sum in China Town. Our two-year old daughter tagged along for our adult recess.

She belted out "The Wheels on the Bus" to passengers on a double decker, chased the ducks and pigeons along the Serpentine and danced with the Hare Krishnas through the streets of China Town. I was beginning to believe that my daughter was my kindred city slicker until she stated,
No cows in London.
This same proclamation happened while on holiday in Paris a few months ago. Whereas then I had let it slide, I decided it was time to address her concerns straight on by emphasising some of  the city's pros:
Horses in the parks! Quaint black cabs.  The Queen!  +Hamleys of London Toys... Big Ben... big red buses?? ....
No good, mommy.
 I watched my husband wipe the smirk off his face.

I often question if our daughter would benefit from being in the city with more activity and culture. What I (again) realised, at least during this early stage, is that she gets more joy out of a muddy puddle in our driveway than staring at a lily pad painted by Monet. And while I know she will one day love going to the theatre, a ticket to "The Lion King" would be better spent now on a year's pass to the local farm's open day.
down on the farm
new arrivals, open day at the farm

She is, like any child,  the byproduct of her own environment which currently includes a field for grazing cattle outside our garden. She says bonjour poule every morning to the neighbour's chickens and knows which road to take to get to "Old MacDonald's Farm."  While I am happy she has the country dirt on her boots, I want her to also know the city grit in her heels. Experience is, after all, the greatest joy of life.

We drove back with snow flurries falling onto the streets of Knightsbridge and arrived home to our snow dusted cottage. We fired up the chimney and all enjoyed afternoon naps.

The next morning as I lay snuggled in the warm duvet, I was grateful not to be a shivering commuter waiting for the 7:17 train. I know I need a dose of city now and then. If for nothing more than to keep the dust from gathering on my handbags. In between visits I will continue to embrace the sweet country air, the mud and, yes, even the muck.




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