Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 48: Spring Pleasures

We are becoming accustomed to sunny warm weather...very unusual for this time of year, especially for weeks running. As always, weather is the main topic of conversation in the village when people meet. It seems amusing to me that generally speaking, no matter what the weather is doing, it never seems to satisfy people. When it rains people complain, now that it's sunny, people are worried that it isn't raining. Of course it is true that these abnormal weather patterns cause havoc for farmers and others who depend upon the predictable nature of the seasons. These bright days may indicate an underlying problem of grave global significance, or they may be the harbinger of bleak dry days ahead, but for myself, I can only take the attitude of get it while you can.

The swifts have returned to the village. They epitomize summer for me, with their evocative calls as they swoop, swirl and dive bomb the church at dawn and dusk. Our black birds seem to lumber through the evening sky by comparison. A pair of morning doves, as usual, are nesting in our wisteria, hidden behind a flowery barrier. Mother-to-be sits on the nest, right outside our apartment window, all day cooing. Proud papa stands guard on the roof top, protectively surveying the terrace and our comings and goings.

The mutabilis roses have burst into glory. They will bloom continuously throughout the season. All the plants now have grown up, providing a soft cover to the metal fence. We put wooden panels on the front gate, so that now our terrace is a real secret garden.

Lilacs all over town are in full bloom. Does anything smell sweeter? Ours are white ones, but various shades of lavender are also in abundance throughout the village.

Even if the garden is not completely filled in, it is starting to blossom and bloom. Usually it's more like the beginning of June when plants are so advanced in their growth.

The peony is full of buds and blooms. In California the weather does not easily support growing this plant, but here they seem weed-like.

I love the tender green of perennials that are just waking up from their winter slumber.

Our first tea rose in the garden has bloomed. The smell is indescribable.

Even the rumpled corners of the garden are trying their best of join in the spring ebullience. We let parts of the grass paths grow as we can't bear to shave off the little daisies.

Iris are in their glory at the moment. Light lavender in the terrace and white in the garden. Our neighbor Catherine gave us a bouquet of strange brown ones yesterday. I wouldn't have imagined a color like that, but I enjoy all the forms and shades that irises take.


We were so happy to see Georges again this week after so many months. He was in town with his family for the Easter vacation. Leyla and her cousin Militine came along for a day of etching in the studio.

They worked very hard at their images and Militine, who had never tried printmaking at all before, was a quick study.

Leyla arrived with a drawing she had already made. She really loves this process and does wonderful work. She created a Chinese dragon figure and printed it several ways.

She is gaining quite a bit of confidence in the studio.

There was a lot to do in just one day of work. In the end I think Leyla was not entirely satisfied with her results. She had other printing ideas in mind, but time ran out. I imagine we'll see her again soon the next time school lets out.

Militine created an image of a dog's head, a pug, with a bottle in the background.

She printed it in bright colors and left a lot of ink on the plate, so the colors were deeply saturated. It looked very nice.


Easter weekend brought a visit from Emily and family. One of the many pleasures we can count on when they show up, is lots of good eating. Emily is a fabulous cook and it seems to be one of the activities she and Jos prefer when they have downtime. Making a beautiful meal is not necessarily what I like to do for fun, but I am an enthusiastic appreciator of those who do!

Emily has a new and irresistible cookbook, called A Year in My Kitchen by the fabulous Skye Gyngell, which we utilized throughout the weekend. Jos brought us some very special white asparagus from Belgium (they have some of the best this time of year) and Emily made us Salad of Spring Vegetables with Herbs, Parmesan and Lemon-infused Oil Garnished with Roasted Red Onions, Tea-smoked Wild Salmon with Pickled Cucumber Mint Salad. It was really divine, and so beautiful to look at. This cookbook has wonderful basic herb blends, scented oils, and garnishes which can be made ahead and then used in different ways to transform ordinary ingredients into spectacular meals in no time at all. Her inventive cooking techniques can also be applied to different foods. Smoking meats and fish in tea, for instance, adds dramatic and delicious flavor.

Another pleasure of a visit from the family is the opportunity to enjoy Quinn and all the new things he learns every day. We decided to dye some eggs with him and he enjoyed the process tremendously. He began by making some designs on an egg with crayon.

Emily made a beautiful natural red beet dye with water, beets and vinegar. Quinn enjoyed the flavor.

Our eggs were brown because there doesn't seem to be a chicken in town who lays white ones. It made our colors seem a bit antique.

On Easter morning, after feeding breakfast to our other clients, I went to the garden with the Easter Bunny, who hid the eggs among the plants.

an orange one

a blue one

a red one

When Quinn arrived he got right to gathering them up.

Quinn's Easter Bunny doesn't hide chocolate eggs, at least not yet. It's difficult enough to keep Quinn from eating all the hardboils in one go.


With days and nights like this, who can resist the call of the out-of-doors for meals? Unfortunately our kitchen is on the third floor and it makes for a lot of ferrying up and downstairs. We hit on the plan of lowering our supplies in a basket.

Jos and Quinn received them.

Easter dinner consisted of: potatoes and parsnips

garbanzo beans with spicy carrots and cilantro

Roast Lamb with fresh garden herbs


Another agreeable week has past. We had a brief dramatic thunder storm in the night with some rain, but not enough to satisfy the farmers, I'm afraid. Today dawns bright again, and promises a week of sunny skies.


  1. What a lovely post! I always enjoy reading your blog after we've spent a weekend at your place... it let's me relive the experience!

  2. Good Morning Nancy,
    Emily is right...this was a very lovely post.
    I loved taking a walk through your garden. Almost all the same flowers are blooming here in Virginia. My iris' have just begun to open. I have more than two dozen different colored ones.
    I have one huge bed with nothing but tall bearded german iris in it. You name the color...I have it. I think they smell like orange juice when they bloom.

    Emily's meal looks so fabulous and your Ester dinner has my mouth watering.

    Love the photo of Quinn trying to catch the basket...he is so adorable. You are a lucky gal.

    See you again next week. Be well my friend.

    Janet xox

    PS...your eggs look beautiful and please give Rick a big Hello!!

  3. oh my goodness, this blog post made me hungry! The Lamb! WOW. I love your blog -- makes me want to take a trip to France and spend a few days in your studio making books (or learning to print!)... hm... hopefully one day:) Very excited to be seeing James (and meeting Adric!) at Ilana's wedding in August!