Monthly Archives: June 2008

Le Baptême – The Children

As with any self-respecting French baptism there were a lot of children. There were our three girls, my friend Charlotte’s four children, my friend Isabelle’s two, my sister-in-law Stephanie’s two, plus my niece and nephew from Canada.

Père Frot did a fine job of incorporating these angelic little beings (many in their prettiest summer dresses) into the service. He had Camille hold up the bible and Charlotte hold up the little jug of Holy Water to be blessed just before it was poured on Clem’s head.

And of course, because this is France, the children were all exquisitely behaved. Just look how perfect they are. Quels petits anges.

Wait a second…what exactly are Gabin in the front row and Alix in the back row doing?

Mon Dieu.

Next Post – Le Baptême : The godparents

Le Baptême – The Church

This weekend was completely filled up with the celebration of Clémentine’s baptism. Even though I am not officially a Catholic, I do feel very strongly about introducing rites of passage into our lives and those of our daughters.

As for Franck, he wouldn’t dream of not having his children baptised. Even though his faith is the very quiet, personal sort, he sees it as a crucial ritual that give our daughters roots in both the French community and French culture.

The baptism was held in the little church of the village of Prissey. This church is only used in the summer, as it is very cold in the winter time. However, we were blessed with not only the longest day of the year (June 21st) but gorgeous, hot 30 degree weather.

One of the things I love about these old Burgundian churches are the old tombstones that make up the floor. This one was for a farmer who had died the 1700’s.

I also love the patina on the wooden beams and the walls – even though many a decorator has tried to reproduce this “look”, nothing can really impart such softness and richness except the passing of centuries.

The little church was completely full, and so Franck and I sat at the back during the Mass with the baptismal girl who, aside from an epic poo incident, was very good.

And what I liked perhaps best of all was the view of the vineyards outside of the church door; they are indeed becoming a recurrent theme in Clem’s life.

Next Post: Le Baptême – The Children…

Bad Day? Invite a Priest to Dinner! Part III

Our Père tutted that he didn’t mind at all, and I give him high points for not turning on his heel at that juncture and hightailing it out of our house.

With the aplomb of someone who possesses remarkable social grace, he complimented my screaming baby, said Franck’s poulet smelled delicious, and sat down at the table and struck up a conversation about how it was to be big sisters with Charlotte and Camille, the both of whom he had baptised.

I couldn’t sit down with teething monster, of course, but when Franck cracked open the first bottle of chilled PouillyFuissé, I very gratefully accepted a glass as I jiggled.

We talked about Rome, where Père Frot had gone to the Seminary for four years, and China where he had recently travelled, and finally Clem fell asleep and I put her to bed.

I sat down and we started in on the second bottle of wine – a red HautesCôtes de Beaune from Domaine NaudinFerrand in MagnylesVillers and began to feast on Franck’s delicious chicken, which was ever bit as good as it smelled. The gratin dauphinois was also perfect – creamy and garlicky. Certainly no aesthete the Père enjoyed it every bit as much as we did. There is nothing as gratifying as cooking or someone who truly appreciates good food.

I was feeling quite a bit more relaxed by this time, and our conversation meandered over to past Saint Vincent Festivals and all of the funny incidents that happen, such as forgetting a bishop in Nuits-Saint-Georges.

We were making serious inroads to our third bottle, of what I can’t quite remember now, when we pulled out the baptismal booklet and started planning Clem’s ceremony.

Even though I am an undecided / lapsed Anglican who describes herself as “still searching for something”, Père Frot doesn’t make me feel the slightest bit self-conscious. He possesses one of the most admirable traits in a clergyman – the will to welcome anyone who wants to be let in.

As we were doing the dishes, Franck and I chatted about what a pleasant evening, against all odds, it had turned out being.

So next time I have a day from hell, I’ll know to invite our priest over.

Next post – Photos from Clémentine’s baptism…

Why I Love Burgundy – Reason #2

Why I Love Burgundy – Reason #2: Because where else will your Stonemason give you the (much appreciated) gift of a chicken?

Not only do your stone masons work like Trojans if you keep funneling them good wine at intervals throughout the day, but if they really like you they might even give you a chicken.

Franck and I were the joyous recipients of a 2.2 kilo poulet that just the day before had been clucking around the yard at mason Max’s house.

Franck roasted it with lemon, olive oil, and herbs de provence and we feasted on it yesterday for lunch with my sister Suzanne, my brother-in-law Greg, and their children Rowan and Manon who are staying at La Maison des Deux Clochers for the next two weeks. If you look really hard at the above photo you can see the chicken on our plates, but it didn’t last long there. It was truly delicieux.

Merci Max!

Bad Day? Invite a Priest to Dinner! Part II

Two hours later, a miracle of sorts had transpired.

The two older girls had been bathed and put into pyjamas, the chicken was being roasted, and Franck had whipped up a gratin dauphinois to go with it. Clem, however, was having none of this miracle business. The screeching continued unabated and she was still being jiggled in my (now numb) arms.

“Uh Franck,” I said as I peered out to the flapping blue tarps and the wet cement. “Père Frot will know not to try to walk on the fresh cement and come in the front door, won’t he?”

Franck was distracted with basting his poulet. “Uh…I’m not really sure.”

Just then there was a knock on the basement door. Our Père had very cleverly figured out all on his own that he needed to come up through our (blood curdling-ly messy) basement.

As a reward he was given a rather shabby welcome by a very harassed Franck who couldn’t help but admitting, “we’ve had such an awful day with Clem screaming and the stonemasons pouring the new deck that we almost called and cancelled, but we figured you wouldn’t mind a bit of chaos.”

I cringed inwardly. This is just the kind of information I had been taught not to share with dinner guests, let alone priestly dinner guests. However, I have long learned that trying to keep my husband, or almost any french person for that matter, from speaking from the heart is a futile endeavour.

To be continued…

Bad Day? Invite A Priest to Dinner!

Last Thursday was a gruesome day.

The masons were pouring the new deck and as it was threatening to rain had strung makeshift blue plastic tarps all around two sides of the house.

I was trapped inside with a very unhappy teething five month old who had not let me do an iota of work. I could feel my “to do” list getting longer by the second, yet all I could do was jiggle my screaming, drooling daughter in my (very tired and achy) arms.

Worse yet, Franck was leaving on a weekend long bike trip early Friday morning and I seriously began to believe that if the teething continued, I would find myself in an insane asylum by Sunday.

To top all of this off, Franck had invited our priest to dinner in order to prepare the teething monster’s baptism on June 21st.

It was 5:00pm, and our family priest was due in two hours. Clem cried. The blue tarps flapped in the bitter wind. My arms felt like they were going to fall off. Clem drooled. My computer pinged “you have new mail!”. I jiggled Clem. She writhed in pain. Everything in the house took on a strange bluish tinge from the tarps. I couldn’t sit down, or even stop jiggling for a moment as the cries would increase unbearably in volume. I cried a bit. And I had a priest arriving in two hours for dinner…

God must have noted that I hadn’t been attending Mass, and consequently sent me to Hell when I wasn’t paying attention.

To be continued…

And Here They Are!

Very exciting morning here at chez Germain in Burgundy.

Franck hung the first pair of repainted shutters on the window of the girls’ bedroom. Now this not only means they will no longer be waking up with the sunshine at around 5:00am, but that we can all get a glimpse of what the façade of La Maison des Chaumes will look like in a few weeks’ time.

You’ll still have to use a bit of imagination, as the wood around the actual window is going to be painted white, banishing that horrible dark wood stain to the furthest reaches of my memory (a very scary place these days).

What I’m planning on doing is planting a pot of bright red geraniums – no self-respecting French house should be without their bright red geraniums – on each level of the new wall there. I think this will look smashing with the “Burgundy” blue of the shutters.

The Shirtless Masons at Work

Check it out! The masons have now poured our new deck which wraps around 2 sides of our Maison des Chaumes. It has been hot over the past few days, and they have been working without their shirts on which seems to help them work even faster (or maybe it’s the copious amounts of wine Franck is serving them?)

Now our deck is about a meter wider than it was at the front of the house, so you can have a lunch outside without one or two people feeling like they are going to topple over into the grass.

We also built a new wall on the South-facing part of the deck so it is even more private, and still allows you to enjoy the lovely view over the valley between Villers-la-Faye and MagnylesVillers. This is a perfect place to have dinner as it is lovely and sunny right up until the sun goes down.

Whereas the front is shady from noon on so a great place to have lunch and enjoy the fetching view of the…uh…cement maker machine (can you tell that I am an expert on such matters?), yellow electrical tubing, and rusty wheelbarrow. But wait a second…what is that green stuff beyond all that construction stuff?

Oh that’s right – it’s vineyards! One just has to know where to look.

Final Photos…

At Claire’s Open House there is not just awesome wine and free tastings galore, but there is also lots of yummy regional specialties to eat. She sets up tables both inside and outside, so guests can rest their weary post-winetasting legs while they feast on a barbecued Charolais steak or merguez, or as Camille and Charlotte chose…

Une petite douzaine of escargots each, swimming in parsley, butter, and garlic and wrapped in flaky pastry. “Super bon” in the words of Charlotte and Camille.

Otherwise you could also buy local cheeses, olive oils from Provence, or the delicious jams and compotes (above) made in MagnylesVillers by none other than the village’s mayor. Many of the three star restaurants in the area use their products, so one could say MagnylesVillers has its own notable star on the gastronomic map of Burgundy.

While sadly too young for escargot, Clem seemed pretty happy after her bottle.
And above all, as I pointed out last week, my girl keeps her eye on the wine – the sign of a true Bourguignonne.

Photos from Triumphant Open-House

Having vanquished constipation and also having talked Franck out of dropping off the Mighty Poo diaper at the pharamacie in revenge, the five of us trundled off to Claire’s Open House.

All of the winemakers Claire invites to her Open House are hand-picked, so this year we brought the ole’ chequebook as we knew this was the perfect spot to replenish our ever-diminishing cave.

Here is Franck chatting it up with ravishing Russian assistant winemaker from Languedoc. However, what you don’t see is me holding the camera in one hand, a glass of excellent Languedoc red in the other, and the patent relief on my face at my suppository-saved baby (see exhibit A in foreground).

Franck could chat up ravishing Russian all he wanted, I was just so glad to be released from baby-constipation-hell.

Here are Charlotte and Camille practising their wine tasting technique. I think Camille in particular has it down pat – even the hand on the hip part.

In the meantime Franck and I had moved on to the Beaujolais stand. Franck didn’t do quite as much flirting here for obvious reasons, but their wine was excellent and we stocked up on several Julienas and Moulin-a-Vent.

And here are my two younger daughters enjoying the festivities. Clem still looks a little bit surprised at the whole suppository business, but at least she’s calm.

While my eldest built the leaning tower of Pisa with blocks in the children’s corner (and we visited Pisa two years ago with Charlotte and Camille, so nice to see this exposure to European-culture thing is paying off).

And by this time my husband had hit the Alsace stand. The wine was AMAZING and we bought quite a few bottles here and our stonemasons are going through about one a day at the moment.

I have to admit to being a bit choked when I see them guzzle it back, but I also know from past renovations here in France that there’s no better way from keeping them from buggering off to other jobs.

Next time, yet more photos from Claire’s Open House…