18 December 2012

Discover a Secret Recipe for a Local Specialty

My first article as a web ambassador just posted on the Les Contamines webzine. I'm dishing on one of my favorite winter staples, farcement, and sharing a secret recipe for this tasty, regional specialty.  Each valley in the region and nearly every family in our village has their own adaptation of this homely but delicious dish.  Hope you find it tasty, too!

You can read either the french version or the english version.  Bon appétit!

Also, special thanks to my good friend, Aurore, for sharing her lovely kitchen and to Jeff for giving me a lesson on how to make his secret recipe. And of course to Félix, too, for his enthusiasm over the resulting repast. It's no wonder he's my favorite person to cook for.

09 December 2012

a snowy snapshot

And just like that, the ski season is underway. We've gotten so much snow the past few days and now the sun is out and we are being treated to a most magnificent start to winter. Hope you are enjoying the view of winter wonder, too! 

04 December 2012

Where you may find yourself

Recently, I was selected to participate in a new communication campaign over the coming year.  It's put together by the Tourism Office for our village.  My new, official title is Web Ambassador.  I am thrilled to be able to share some of what I love about where we live with an even broader audience. It's my hope that wherever you may be in the world that my words transport you here.

The program is being headed by Switch, a digital design company that I've heard lots of good things about.  At an introductory half-day session, I got to meet my other fellow ambassadors. There are eight of us in all and everyone has something wonderful to offer. Some live in the area; some don't.  It's a neat group, a nice mix of perspectives and interests with a common passion for our little village nestled high up in the Alps.

My first article to kick-off the series will appear in a couple weeks.  You can meet my fellow web ambassadors and read more about the program here, if you like.

22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since it's the Thanksgiving holiday in the states, we're doing our part as 'Mericans to celebrate over here, too. Our poulet rôti (rotisserie chicken) from my favorite stall at the market smells delicious and is ready as a stand-in for the traditional turkey. Side dishes are prepped.  Glasses are filled and the fire is crackling.

We'll be going around the table saying reasons why we are thankful.  They are numerous. We have amazing friends and family.  We have our health. We are surrounded by love.  We have much and I am thankful that we have the ability to appreciate all that we have instead of focusing the opposite.  It's a skill that we hone here at the hibou+heron household and I am so glad that we do.  It makes our existence so much richer. I am thankful for a wonderful husband.  I am grateful for our beautiful, little boy and the wonder and joy he's brought into our lives.

I'm thankful that you read what I write and that it's enough to keep you coming back again.   Your support and readership mean so much. Thank you for that.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving or, if you don't observe the holiday, just a really great Thursday!

19 November 2012

thinking about holiday travel

the Alps as seen from our most recent flight to Nice

Will you be up in the friendly skies or out on the roads this holiday season? Clover and I will be heading to Seattle.  It's been years since I spent Christmas with my side of the family.  I am ecstatic, just buzzing with anticipation and I find it hard to concentrate on much else than thinking about our trip next month.  

It will just be Clover and me.  Félix will be working hard and studying harder amidst the holiday fêtes over here.  Needless to say my fear of flying still stands, especially since this time I'll be doing it solo. However, my trepidation has done nothing to overshadow the utter excitement for our stay in the states.  

I keep reminding myself of the quote above.  I find it applicable for this trip but also for making the most of the days until we are on our way and at cruising altitude high above the Atlantic.  I thought you might enjoy it, too?  

Wishing you safe travels, holiday or otherwise, wherever they take you and much happiness along the way. 

15 November 2012

a more somber side

Today, you can find me blogging at Little Village Life on Angloinfo.  I'm talking about November 11th and an image that changed my view of World War II.

I hope you will visit me there!

13 November 2012

afternoon at the park

We headed to the park an excuse to get out of the house and into the fresh air . It was one of those beautiful fall days, one that starts crisp and cold but quickly warms up, making heavy coats an unnecessary afterthought.

The fall leaves have tumbled from their high canopy into a think blanket covering the ground.  We spent some time picking them up, tossing them and watching as they drifted to the ground.  They crunched underfoot, their earthy smell heady and heavenly as we walked towards the pond.

With the the sun magically filtering through colorful leaves, only a few ducks remain hiding in the shadows of the still water.  The rest have already flown on towards warmer climates.

Clover has developed a new habit of walking with his hands in his pockets -- all the time. I find it adorable.  I don't know where this came from.  Except I am always afraid that he's going to fall and end up flat on his face.  But then again that kind of seems like the constant risk of an energetic toddler, regardless of where he puts his hands, doesn't it?

09 November 2012

a nice warm-up

Recently, Félix and I had our first hot chocolate of the season.  Is it obvious whose mug requires the most marshmallows?

It's mine. It's always mine.

It practically required blackmail to get that man to put a fluffy marshmallow in his cocoa. He's still not sold on the idea, which is wonderful news of course;  it leaves many, many more for me.

How are you warming-up these days?

04 November 2012

the best way to visit Paris on foot

Needing an easy excuse for a weekend in Paris I decided to sign up for the 20 kilometrès de Paris race a couple months back.  It was the perfect reason to get us to the city of lights for a quick 36 hours in October. Paris did not disappoint, we had the best weekend.  We packed in a lot and it made for so much fun. Clover got to stay with Felix's parents and sister and be spoiled with attention while Félix and I traipsed around the capital.

Our friends loaned us their lovely apartment as a homebase for the weekend since they were out of town.  Don't they have such  a gorgeous view of the Théatre de la Renaissance? Thank you so much,  A&A! We really wanted to stay for days and days!

It was wonderful to be in the city. We stopped for a leisurely coffee and hid out from a bit of rain until the weather cleared to make our wanderings a little less damp.  After doing our best of being tourists for a bit, we went to the Trocadero to get my bib number for the race.  After a bit of a hiccup with the mandatory doctor's note , mine only specified that I was allowed to run  20 kilometers and it had to specify either  run the 20 kilomètres de Paris or run in competition.  Very strict about that, good to know!  So I had to call my doctor on a Saturday morning and get a new note scanned and emailed to me and then find a shady copy shop to print it out. In the meantime, we didn't let my momentary inattention to detail get us down. We went to lunch in a little bistro on  Rue Montorgueil and did some good people watching.  I managed to wrangle Félix into doing a tiny bit of shopping before we went back to the race headquarters where I waved my very dear athletic clearance and  I was finally officially eligible to run.

We had heard good things about the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Grand Palais but upon our arrival we learned of a 2-hour wait  to get in.  It was too much for our impatient souls.  We went for a celebratory flute of champagne and then headed to a sold out performance of A la Française at the Théatre Marigny.  A work written, directed and starring one of our preferred french actors, Edouard Baer.  It was hilarious and light-hearted, heavy hitting and thoughtful.  He wonderfully poked fun at french culture but also gave a bit of an ode to it as well. Félix and I both left grinning. It was so easy to get carried away in the story, the humor, the moment.

The next morning we headed to the foot of the Eiffel Tower and I got ready to race. This was my first time running with so many people.  There were about 25,000 runners. The race took us out towards the Bois de Boulogne and back through the city and along the banks of the Seine before bringing us back to the Eiffel Tower.   I loved how flat the course was! Compared to where I was doing all my training runs in the hilly, high altitude of the Alps, it was a very welcome change.

There were groups playing music every few kilometers all along the course and people cheered encouragement along the race route.  It was a grey rainy day and it only got more grey and more rainy as the race went on.  It did nothing to dampen my spirits though, it was so fun to be running around Paris with the streets closed just for me... ahem, us, all of us runners.

There were so many people:  participants, supporters, organizers.  Félix and I lost each other until we met up at our pre-determined post-race spot overlooking the Eiffel Tower.   I was greeted with cheers from Félix and his cousin. I ran it in two hours, I was hoping to be faster than that but overall,  I am really happy with my run.  I had a lot of fun and would do it again in heartbeat.  And before we knew it was time to catch the train home and find our little Clover  so that we could cover him with kisses. Now, the only lingering question is what race to sign up for next.  Any ideas?

26 October 2012

Do you need more cowbell?

You can find me over at Little Village Life discussing the Combat des Reines, a livestock event like no other.  I talk about the surprise and suspense of a bovine battle royal. When the cows lock horns, you can expect...read more.

p.s. if you aren't familiar with the american pop culture reference in the title, you may want to watch this clip with Will Ferrell.  And if you are familiar with it, then we both know you definitely want to watch it.

19 October 2012

3 things for a chilly fall day

When we came back from Corsica, we were greeted by a fog so thick the majority of the weekend we could hardly see across the street. The trees would peek out only occasionally.

The gloomy, grey mist and sharp cold were the perfect welcome back to fall reality.  All I wanted to do was curl up with a book on the couch, huddle under thick blankets and slurp hot soup to try to shake the chill. I guess, sometimes the best way to greet the cold weather is to simply submit to it.  The thick brume has  since left us so I'm looking forward to spending lots of time outside this weekend. No matter the weather though, I hope you find a way to keep warm this weekend!

Here are my three picks for keeping cozy:

1. Curling up with a good book -  Bringing up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, the only woman to win the Man Booker prize twice, it looks easy to get lost in the pages. On a fluffier, chick-lit note, 50 Shades of Grey has arrived in France.  Thinking I might just have to add that to my book pile, too. Have you read it?

2. Homemade soup on the stove - One of my new favorite recipes for tomato soup. If you still have a couple good tomatoes left, it's easy and delicious.

3. Bundling up with lots of layers -  Really pretty scarves keep you warmer.  It's a proven fact. I like these from fashionABLE, not only do they look good and keep your neck warm, they also help create sustainable business for women in Africa. It's a win-win.

By the way, these are not sponsored links, just things I like and couldn't help sharing.

So don't hold out on me, what are your picks for enjoying a chilly, fall weekend?

15 October 2012

we need to talk about Corsica

Just after I waxed poetic about welcoming autumn, we did the exact opposite and jetted off to Corsica to catch the waning rays of sun and summer.  It was the perfect trip. The three of us, along with Félix's sister met up with Félix's cousin and his cousin's friend.  Can I just tell you that a ratio of 5 adults to 1 child is my kind of ratio? 

Our mornings would begin with the three of us sneaking out of the house for coffee and croissants in the harbor while the other housemates slept.  The citadel of Bonifacio loomed high above the small harbor below.  Sitting outside, sipping our coffee, Clover provided a constant narration of which boats went motoring by past the white limestone cliffs on their way out to sea. We'd head back to the house with croissants for the late sleepers and then we would all head off to the beach. It was a rhythm I could totally get on board with.

We stayed at Félix cousin's place in Spérone, at the southern most spot in Corsica. There was just so much to love about where we were.  It's rugged and gorgeous.

Hadri, Félix's cousin showed us a fun spot, a completely concealed beachside restaurant.  It was totally hidden behind the scrub oak until we were gazing at the sea.  We had a long, lingering lunch in front of that perfect view.  There are so many great hidden coves and secret beaches.

Clover didn't want to go near the water. Even so much as the tiniest drop would elicit squeals of distress. He would happily play in the sand and then all of a sudden on the second to last day he acted as if there was nothing he would rather do more than play in the surf. All fear forgotten. We could not get that boy out of the water. 

Which by the way, can we talk about the water? I've been to the mediterranean plenty but I have never seen it such a gorgeous turquoise, so clean and so clear.  Amazing. And I think another reason why I was so blown over by the place is that it is so close. By plane it's less than two hours but it felt a whole world away when we were there.

It was a fun, quick trip full  of lots of laughs, wonderful family and friends, great food, great champagne, and beautiful beaches, too.  Which really sums up my idea of a perfect trip in the sunshine before the cold autumn arrives.

I can't wait until we find our way back to the cobblestone streets, the golden sunsets and the silky, white-sand beaches of Corsica... Until then, I think it will feel like a dream that we were ever there. 

Do tell, do you have a favorite vacation spot? I find mine is changing all the time.

07 October 2012

you can own the night

You can own the night, if you like. However, I'll keep the mornings.  I'm much more partial to them these days.  We caught this sunrise in Corsica the other week.  It was... well, magical. I have to say I am head over heels for the place. Corsica completely captured my heart.

18 September 2012

the passing seasons

Can you believe it's fall already? I keep asking myself that question, too. My answer is no, I can't. I really can't. But here we are.

So, I guess I'll happily embrace that unmistakable chill in the mornings and relish the warm afternoons that disappear a little too quickly behind the setting sun.

How about you? Are you welcoming fall with open arms or a stiff upper lip?

15 September 2012

sightseeing for beginners

Along with the pretty views of the lake, part of the fun of going for a stroll in Geneva is hearing so many different languages being spoken. I love how international it is. There are people from all over.

Last weekend, we spent time in the shade of the tall trees near the botanical gardens. We kicked a tiny soccer ball around the grounds. We took turns sharing snacks.  

But what I really want to tell you about our walk along the shores of Lac Léman, my favorite part, is that Clover pretends to sightsee. He climbs up to look through the binoculars. He cups his hands around the coin slot, peers in and with a happy grin relates all the wonders that he sees. 

The cuteness and innocence of that makes my smile big and goofy.  

03 September 2012

let's head for the hills

Last weekend, we decided to have breakfast at a higher altitude.  After picking up croissants from our favorite boulangerie, we high-tailed it into the hills. We opted for a short hike and decided to walk a small portion of the trek around the Mont Blanc.

Lots of hikers come through on their way around the Mont Blanc.  The trek usually takes about 7-10 days.  Although, some daredevils do it in under 24 hours but those are men and women running the UTMB, the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc and they are very much exceptional human beings. This year's race was this past weekend. It's so exciting and energizing to watch.    Anyway back to our small, small endeavor, we opted for a very short portion of the same trail.

Nature brought out the bear in Clover.  Literally.  Out of the blue, he growled at some fellow hikers that walked past us as we were taking a break and sent himself into a fit of giggles.  Well, it made the passers-by chuckle, too. Not to fear though,  should you cross this little cub in the wild, I  have on good authority that he isn't very dangerous and can be swayed into just about any activity by offering a small square of cheese or chocolate.

We were rewarded for our early morning motivation.  The sun was just peaking over the tops of the mountains when we arrived at our destination, Le Sollié, a high altitude restaurant just off the trail.  It's usually a stopping point for a refreshing perrier on the way back down from a long hike, or a sweet crêpe to give a boost for that last bit of trail.  We ordered coffee and orange juice to enjoy with our croissants and soaked up all the sunshine we could.

Outside the small chalet that houses the restaurant, there are gurgling fountains. They have rabbits that happily nibble away on grasses and a big sand box filled with toys, in other words an endless amount of things to keep a little boy occupied. They did so very successfully.  But, lunchtime and naptime were growing closer and before those things could happen, there would need to be a hike down.

A tired out Clover got a fair amount of rides on our shoulders and a well-coiffed Félix got an even better hairstyle from his new, little hairdresser.   This breakfast in the hills was a great start to our day and a wonderful start to the weekend.

How was your weekend? I hope there was sunshine involved! Maybe some croissants, too?

29 August 2012

you might want to stand up for this

I can't believe that we are staring down the final days of August.  Where did the summer go? I told Félix, rather urgently, that I thought I needed to up my ice cream consumption for the last of the hot weather. And I totally meant what I said.  We've really made the most of this summer though.  I think that is why it feels like it has gone by so quickly.

This past weekend, we headed to the Lac d'Annecy to do something that's been on my summer bucket list for ages. We tried our hand at Stand Up Paddling.  If you aren't familiar with it, the sport originated in Hawaii.  Waikiki surfers used paddles to get out past the reef break to surf bigger and better waves. Stand up paddling has picked up a lot of momentum all around the world and can be found in both salt and fresh water, now. It is easy to understand the popularity. It is so much fun.

It felt amazing to be out on the water.  The sun was shining. The lake was calm.  It was gorgeous.  We only paddled for an hour, but the time flew by. It was so peaceful.  Although I did get honked at by a lake ferry. I was in my blissful, paddling mindset when I half-wittedly thought the captain could steer his big old boat around me.  The horn blasts easily made it clear who would be yielding to whom. Félix and I braced for the waves while the passengers grinned and took photos. We grinned back.

We are officially hooked on this sport. Once we returned our boards, we strolled over to the old town for sushi in the sunshine. It was a completely dreamy day.  Have you tried stand up paddling? Or, maybe just standing up independent of paddling is more your thing?

In any case, I hope you are enjoying these final days of August!

20 August 2012

riding the rails in the Alps

I was happy to see that  
Gabrielle at Design Mom was hosting another Love the Place You Live series. I require very little encouragement to wax poetic about where we live. We love it here. The idea of the series is to get out and enjoy a place close to home, share about it and link up with others that did the same. Félix and I have been meaning to hop on the TMB, the Tramway du Mont Blanc for ages. The timing couldn't be better.  Well, maybe our timing was a wee bit off. When we went to pick up our tickets, we missed the train that was at the station by about 30 seconds.  To make the most of it, we sat down at the little railway café to enjoy a coffee in the sunshine while waiting for the next train to arrive.

The rail line was inaugurated in 1909 and is the highest railway in France. It is also one of the steepest. In only 12 km (7.5 miles) of track, it climbs 1798 meters (5866 feet).  Our train wasn't too full but the early morning trains are usually packed with climbers heading up to start the long trek to the summit of the Mont Blanc. The original idea was to build a train that would go all the way up to the top of the Mont Blanc. Can you imagine?  The early 1900s were such a lofty time of industrial revolution. However, the project faced financial difficulties and with the arrival of the First World War, the idea to go all the way up was definitively abandoned. 

Each one of the three trains that run on the line are named after the operators daughters, Jeanne, Anne and Marie. The railcars are beautiful with polished wood benches and big windows that open to let in the fresh alpine air.

The train winds through the forest climbing up higher and higher until out peaks the most gorgeous panoramas of the Mont Blanc, the Bionnassay Glacier and the Aiguille du Midi.  It rolls through alpine meadows and then heads into a tunnel before reaching its terminus.

We hopped off the train at Mont Lachat stop.  The train can go all the way up to the Nid d'Aigle (The Eagle's Nest) but due to intense melting and glacial activity of the Bionnassay glacier the rail line has had to close and have some work done.

Meanwhile, the wildflowers have happily moved in and taken advantage of the slow down in train traffic. 

We hiked up and up and up further.  It was such a beautiful day.  Félix set a perfect pace as we followed the switchbacks through the rock fields. We walked along until ice axes and crampons were required to go any further.

There has been a lot more rock fall this year with the hot, hot temperatures.  Helmuts were a must at this point, too.  After savoring the amazing view over a snack break, we headed back down and just happened to make a new friend.

We came across this good-looking fellow. He's a bouquetin, a european mountain goat. He was pretty mellow. And no, that's not zooming in, we were really that close. He checked us out for a bit and then trotted off towards his buddies that were busy sunning themselves on the rocks a bit higher up.

This was such a fun day trip.  I feel like the mountaineering bug bit me with this one. Félix and I wanted to keep going up and up and up.   People come from all around the world to visit where we live. We are so lucky to have all this just outside our back door.  And who knows, maybe the next time we're on that train, we will be heading to start our long trek toward the mountain huts before taking on the summit of the Mont Blanc.  What do you think, would you want to join us?

p.s.  For my other favorite from the Love the Place you Live series, take a look here.
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