“…the spirit within was as free and untrammeled as ever – the spirit of independence and of adventure which is willing to accept the knockdown blows of fate as readily and cheerfully as her favors…”

The Laughing Cavalier by Baroness Orczy

From Brooklyn

While in Brooklyn, I came upon a little card with a little quote.  It seemed just right for my heart at that very moment.  I don’t know why, but I bought it and brought it home.  It read…

“I told the sun that I was glad,

I’m sure I don’t know why;

Somehow the pleasant way he had of shining in the sky,

Just put a notion in my head that wouldn’t it be fun.

If, walking on the hill I said ‘I’m Happy’ to the sun.”

…John Drinkwater

Inspiration: France

A couple of years ago, my family took our first trip overseas together.  We have all traveled many a times before but never all 6 of us together out of the country at once.  My sisters and I had given my parents a trip to France for their 25th anniversary and they decided that we should go as a whole family.  Of course my sisters and I readily agreed.  It took a couple of years to actually go but finally we made our way to the south of France, outside of Toulouse.  My mother found a home for us to rent and we settled in for a wonderful French filled week.  Words cannot even begin to describe the amazing beauty of the home and the setting.  Seriously.  It was perfect!

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Set gently on top of a hill, it was surrounded with fields that blew gently in the breeze.  There was a cheese farm up the road where we bought fresh cheese from the owner.  Part of the Roman Road ran through the area and was perfect for walking.  We did do some exploring, but the majority of the day was spent going to market to buy food and then cooking it.

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As there are four girls plus my mom, we have plenty of cooks in the family.  We decided that we would each take one night and be in charge of the food preparations.  (I guess technically the nights we ate out were my father’s nights.)  Now, when given an assignment like that, we all wanted to create a feast, so our days quickly became about planning menus, sourcing food, and cooking.  And boy, did we cook.  Sometimes we did not end up eating until 10pm, but that was part of the experience.  There was an amazing concrete table right outside the kitchen that was perfect for feasting.  Even though the home was beautiful, it is hard to eat inside when you are in France, or anywhere for that matter, when nature and your surroundings are so beautiful.

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Now, I will clarify that Italy has my heart.  It is my first love and will always be my true love.  I had been able to travel to France at least four other times and had loved each trip.  This trip was different.  It resonated with me in a way that France never before had.  I fell in love with not just France, but living French.  Things that I have incorporated into my life now.

I think that is part of traveling – being exposed to new and different things, or seeing things in a new way.  I don’t think I ever come back totally the same person.  It might be little things, but they change my life.  So, here is a list of some of what I discovered and fell in love with…

Citrus Press

Who knew that squeezing lemons could be so easy.  The kitchen had the most amazing old press.  It looked like it was an antique and worked so well.  It got every drop out of the lemons.  Totally sold!  I bought one when coming home.  I still have my eye out for one that has a little more age and charm and is straight up solid metal.

Canopy Bed

Okay, so I would never have thought I would want a canopy bed.  I never liked the looks as they seemed a bit Victorian and I prefer more of a rustic/minimalist look when it comes to design.  I guess that is because I never slept in one.  That sold me.

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My sisters and I all shared a room (not that we had too as there were plenty of rooms and beds, but we like to be together).  We were traveling in May so the nights got chilly even though the days were warm.  We thought it only fair that we would rotate who got the floor and who slept in the bed.  My younger sister and I started out in the bed and my older sisters slept on the floor.  Every night they would tuck us in and wrap the curtains tight around the bed so that we had a warm little cocoon.  It was so unbelievably cozy.  The coziest bed I have ever experienced.  So much so that my older sisters let us two younger ones sleep there the whole time we were so in love with it.  I desperately want a canopy bed!

Steak

I really prefer vegetables over meat.  Up to this point I did not really care for steak at all.  (Meaning I did not like it.)  At the end of the trip we spent a couple of days in Toulouse.  There was a little steak restaurant down the street from our hotel that we decided to go to one night.  As I was in France at a steak restaurant, I figured I would eat a steak with gorgonzola.  I don’t know why I ordered it when I did not care for it typically.  Oh my goodness!  It was absolutely delicious.  The best steak I have ever had.  Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what the name of the restaurant is.  But I am forever thankful for such a delicious meal and wonderful experience.

Fennel & My French Kitchen

In the kitchen of the house we stayed at, they had a selection of cookbooks that we used as resources for our meals.  (Thankfully the home owners were British and most of the cookbooks were in English.)  One such cookbook was “My French Kitchen” by Joanne Harris & Fran Warde.  This is a must-have in my opinion.  The Baked Red Pepper recipe is what made me fall in love with fennel.  In addition to the baked red peppers, we also made the White Bean & Tomato Salad, the Warm Tuna & Potato Salad, the Artichokes with Vinaigrette, the Onion Tart, and the Gratin Dauphinois.

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Gotan Project

One night, at the local restaurant, there was this beautiful, emotionally stirring music playing.  The whole meal we were memorized by how fabulous it was.  We asked if they knew who it was…Gotan Project.  Love their music!

For anyone traveling to France and looking for a vacation rental, I would highly recommend Pure France!