Thursday, September 27, 2012


With the huge profusion of colorful peppers in the market now it seems only natural to make piperade. This simple yet sumptuous dish is Spanish in origin, coming from the Basque region, which is not far from where I am in south west France.

You can choose from any number of varieties of multicolored peppers. The main thing is to have a lot of them, the more different textures & colors the better.

I like to add at least one hot pepper to the mix but that is completely optional.

Slice & sauté your peppers in a large sauté pan over medium heat.

Add chopped garlic to taste, for me the more garlic the better. Sauté garlic with peppers & then add peeled & diced tomatoes. Again the quantities are according to taste & what you have on hand. I would say about as many tomatoes as peppers. Canned tomatoes may also be substituted for fresh.

Simmer until your tomatoes have softened into a velvety rich sauce. Then add a large handful of chopper parsley, stir & serve. There are many different variations of piperade. Some recipes add eggs to the mixture to give it an even richer consistency.

Piperade is often served as a side dish to accompany Basque chicken & rice. Or it can be eaten simply as is, as a light lunch or dinner served with plenty of crusty country bread to soak up all of that lovely sauce. Add a green salad & to me you have a perfect colorful autumn meal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Motorcycles, or motos as they are called here, are a very real & respected form of transportation, much more so here than in the US. Here motorbikes are constantly zipping in & out of traffic or whizzing by.

You see them parked everywhere & to me there is something compelling about the juxtaposition of these contemporary machines & the old world charm in which they coexist.

I am drawn to the beauty & sculptural elements of these shiny chrome vehicles.

Some are modern versions of retro bikes. I am clearly not the only one that appreciates their sculptural beauty.

I simply liked the composition of this photo, the Leonart , the colors of the pipes & the bottles in the window & the circular sphere in the road.

Sometimes you do not know what you have taken until you get home & look at your photos. That was the case of the photo above. I had not seen the red sign with the swastika when I took the photo of the white Vespa parked next to a cafe. I was horrified when I saw it & asked a friend about its meaning. She assured me that it is an advert for a respected journal which had a probing article on Nazism. I was so disturbed by the photo that I thought of not using it. However, there was just something eerily chilling & a reminder of a dark past that was both repelling & at the same time compelling to me.

On a lighter note here I came upon a vintage motorbike parked near a pristine dove grey Doux Chevaux. These two seemed to be a perfect compliment to one another.

I liked this scooter with its pack & map of France strapped in place. It made me think of a kindred spirit or a fellow traveler.

And well, I could not resist this sleek red bike parked in front of the arch of this old world leaded window. It is this sort of juxtaposition that is most intriguing to me.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Times Gone By

The tiny picturesque village of Espenas celebrated its past by taking a step back in time. Although this lovely little farming community does not need to do a lot to transport you to another era, none the less, they went all out to educate the public about what life was like in days gone by.

Walking around the village, every house & field had some element of another generation.

From the wagon loads of hay to the vintage cars parked outside homes, you could not help but feel that you indeed had stepped back in time.

Craftsman in various styles of vintage dress demonstrated the way things once were done.

Can you see that the man in the photo below hand planing the board is wearing wooden shoes, the preferred footwear several generations ago.

My favorite was the old school room, complete with the old desks & the wonderful old posters that are now so popular in brocantes & antique shops here.

Everywhere you looked you saw something from the past. It was really quite amazing to think how many antiquated items the townspeople had preserved & obviously treasured.

Even the old boulangerie with its stone bread oven was reopened for the occasion. Bread was made completely from scratch the old fashion way. Unfortunately the proud baker insisted on putting his electric light in the photo so that I could better see his beautiful loaves of bread.

This took away from the authenticity a bit but other than that every aspect of the bread was created as it once had been right down to the bundles of sticks used to fire the oven.

Merci to the people of Espenas for a wonderful opportunity to stroll back to a time gone by.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


When there is an abundance of fresh vegetables in the garden or in the market, homemade soup is a great way to make use of them. This summer & early fall I have been the lucky recipient of my neighbor's gardens bounty & have made a number of different versions of a simple & easy soup recipe.

One of my favorites was fresh tomato soup with crispy homemade croutons. I made this when I was given a huge basket of very ripe tomatoes.

It was so good that I want to try it again. Right now the market has many varieties of beautiful tomatoes. You can buy large over ripe ones for almost nothing, which are perfect for making soup.

The recipe is so simple. All you need are plenty of onions & garlic & whatever vegetable you plan to use. Sauté your onions & garlic, add your vegetables, water & a good quality bouillon cube & you are good to go. You can rough cut everything as you will blend it at the end. Cook your vegetables until just tender, you don't want to over cook them & then blend. Season with salt & pepper & whatever herbs you may want to use & in no time you have a delicious hardy soup.

Your choice of vegetable is infinite, there are so many different combinations & choices that you can try.

Zucchini or any combination of green vegetables is another obvious choice, as zucchini is always so abundant this time of year.

I used some beautiful zucchinis from my neighbors garden & added some sautéed spinach at the very last minute for a very good & creamy green soup. Now that the weather is getting cooler soup is such a warm & comforting meal.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Old Industrial Items & Signs

As much as I love all the beautiful things France has to offer, I also love the rusty old industrial items & signs as well. For some reason I found this old blue ESSO pump & yellow barrel very appealing & certainly very colorful.

I adore these old signs for "Le Petit Journal". You see them everywhere, some in better condition than others. There is in fact one in my village but it has only a crumbling corner left. This one is whole & fairly readable. Do you see it boasts 6 pages?

I just loved this scene with the old enamel sign & the very long bench, not to mention the faded shutters & curtains.

I was really charmed by this doorway with its old weather thermometer still hanging there after many years of use.

Here is just one of the many old shop signs one sees. I so love these, & feel sad when I think that eventually they will probably be replaced with modern ones.

I have passed this door so many times & have only now thought "I must take a photo!". To me this door just exudes mystery.

Although not old, this shop with its old fashion lettering & products from another era harks back to the past. The widow display has lovely handmade market baskets, feather dusters, natural sponges, & things to beat your carpets with. Inside you will find even more old fashion products for a modern world.

I hope you are having a happy & productive weekend. Maybe you are beating the dust out of your carpets or maybe your French maid is dusting with a feather duster. One thing is certain, I will be taking my basket & going to the Sunday market tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Outdoor Tables

September is a beautiful month here in southwest France. It is cool in the mornings & evenings, but sunny & hot by day. It is still pleasant to sit outside to eat, which is an important part of the French way of life. One sees outdoor tables everywhere. I am always drawn to these settings whether in restaurants surrounded by giant parasols or a simple family table in a garden. Here are a few of the photos I have taken this summer of the outdoor tables that appealed to me.

Beautiful setting, beautiful view ....

When not in use for dinning, tables are a great place for potted plants.

No matter how small the area there is always room for a table & chairs.

Although not a picture of tables, this photo gives the feeling of lunching outside on a sunny summer day under the shade of large white umbrellas. This ambiance is so typical to the south of France.

Tables are tucked in any outdoor space available always ready to invite a guest.

Almost every restaurant offers outdoor seating, each with their own style & decoration.

White plastic chairs are actually very common even in the most elegant of settings.

Another little table with plants but ever ready for someone to pull up a chair & drink a cup of coffee.

I found this late summer scene very appealing.

As I did this simple family dinner table under an arbor just outside a kitchen window. I like the candle holders hanging from the shutters & can imagine how pretty they would be at night.

Shelter from an open air barn provides the perfect spot for alfresco dinning.

There is no question that this lovely tradition of dinning in the fresh open air is one of my favorite things about life in France.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pêche et Orange

There are so many creamy peach colors & oranges here in the summer as well as fall colors too. This is my collection of bright orangey hues.

To me a building with this lovey peach color just speaks of a warm climate.

Of course what could be more peachy than a crate of beautiful fresh peaches in the market.

The bricks have such a warm orangey tone but the little orange pot just says it all.

Can't get much more orange than this little table & chair set.

These shutters are a deeper shade of orange.

I had never seen an orange rose before. No kidding, it was just this color with little bits of yellow. It was really stunning.

Some rather industrial looking shades of orange.

This little orange voiture is not a Doux Cheveux but another vintage auto that I spotted recently.

Oh, when in season the apricots are so beautiful & so delicious.

We are coming to the end of the peach season now & starting to finding fall vegetables & fruits in the market these days. Here is a lovely pumpkin & big squash from my neighbors garden.

Hope the rest of your week & the up coming weekend will be peachy!