22 July 2011

Rainy days in July

Hard rain with big drops slapping against the roof and the skylights woke me up at five this morning. That was a good excuse to roll over, pull the covers up around my ears, and stay right where I was. I've always enjoyed rainy days, unless there are too many of them in a row. Right now, it looks like November outside.

It's still raining hard at 7:45. And it's dark — I had to turn on all the lights in the kitchen and living room so that I could see to walk around and get a pot of tea brewing. We're starting to wonder if summer will come back at all. It's been raining off and on since July 12. Oh well, we don't have to water the garden any more, and that'll keep the water bill down. But it also helps the weeds grow really long, tough roots.

The rain barrel is overflowing.

Yesterday we had lunch at our neighbors'. They are the couple who live in Blois and have the house across the street as their summer place. They invited another woman we're friends with who lives on the other side of the village. Walt and I brought the average age way down. The three neighbors are 76, 81, and 81 years old.

M. served a nice salad with lettuce, tomatoes, smoked salmon, and surimi. Then she had monkfish, cut into big chunks, served in what's called a sauce américaine or armoricaine. There's some confusion over the name of this particular sauce, which is probably not actually American but Breton (armoricain) in origin. At any rate, it's a light tomato sauce that contains a lot of cream, so it's the color, more or less, of thousand island dressing. It's rich but not spicy, and it's often served with lobster.

Views of the back garden and the road out front
in the rain
this morning

Then there was cheese, of course. She had a platter that included a local goat cheese, a camembert, and a couple of hard cheeses. It was a lot like the cheese platter I put together for dinner with other friends a couple of days ago. I probably learned the combination from having lunches and dinners with the neighbors here.

The conversation was about local happenings and personalities: Who just died, for example. Whose neighbors are making too much noise, playing loud music. What's going on with the neighbors who have several cats. What the cats, including Bertie the black cat who lives with us, are up to. How busy our neighbor-the-mayor is all the time. The weather. The way cars go too fast on the road through the hamlet, and who all those cars belong to. Our dogs and their recent adventures. Our American company.

The corn and the rhubarb in the garden are looking happy.

Tonight the friends from San Francisco who were our very first houseguests here in Saint-Aignan back in 2003 are coming for a return visit. They are spending the summer in London and are taking the train from London to Lille to Tours. When they visited in 2003, their daughter was one year old. They were here during the Great Heat Wave — la grande canicule de 2003 — and we were just barely moved in at that point.

Little romain lettuces like this weather.

Now the daughter is nine years old, and she has a little brother who must be five or six. There won't be any canicule — "dog days" — during this visit, according to forecasts. One of the things the family wants to do is go to the Saint-Aignan zoo. I hope the rain will hold off on either Saturday or Sunday and that they'll have a dry afternoon.

I'm trying to figure out what kind of food to have ready for young children. I have a chicken I can cook. Yesterday I made a big bowl of tuna salad. We have cheeses, but not many that will appeal to children, I'm afraid. I guess I ought to think about some green vegetables. Collard greens? Probably not...

Apples we will have...

The news was just reporting that the grape harvest in Burgundy will probably be three weeks earlier than normal because of all the warm dry weather we had in April, May, and June. Around here, the grapes definitely are not ripe — they are all still green, even the red wine grapes — and they'll need a little more heat and sunshine to get ready for harvesting. Even when August is rainy and chilly, September is usually sunny and sometimes hot. We'll see.


  1. I'm so glad the gardens finally have the rains they've needed. Everything looks so lush. But I sure hope you see the sun again sometime soon.

  2. Sausages, hamburgers, mashed potatoes, carrots, apple sauce, spaghetti ... are some of the things children tend to like :)!Good luck and enjoy your friends' visit! Martine

  3. Mitch, we hope so too. It would be too bad for summer to be over already.

    Martine, thanks for the ideas. I thought about spaghetti when I was at the supermarket this morning. And I also thought about macaroni and cheese. I bought some ham, emmental, and bread for sandwiches. I'm not sure American children like cooked carrots!

  4. kids arent normally too big on veggies......or salads.....have jam on hand so they can at least eat bread & jelly.....or maybe some eggs.....or a blt...there's always cereal!

  5. Thanks Melinda, yeah, I have jam that I made, and bread and butter of course. And eggs. No cereal though. I thought about salads and veggies, even though I did buy broccoli at the market, even though I realize kids probably don't like it. It was too pretty and low-priced to resist.

    I'm sure we'll make it through the weekend. We can always go to the supermarket tomorrow morning. If it's raining tomorrow as hard as it is right now, however, we won't be going to the open-air market or the zoo tomorrow.

  6. Your garden looks happy now- I'm glad you're having the rain, but hope it quits so your zoo day will happen. I love taking kids to the zoo.

    Most kids like french fries and chicken fingers also. Some children eat everything, others almost nothing. I wouldn't worry too much about their food since the parents will take care of it if the kids are picky eaters.

    I remember the canicule in 2003 and talking to you on the phone when we visited Marie for the first time.

  7. If you cook it, they will come.

    It's a reference to the movie, Field of Dreams, for those who didn't recognize it.)

  8. I promise your last posts are really starting to sound as if you have moved to Seattle, WA ;-) I particularly liked the picture of the rain bucket. I have a similar one by my house and it is full too! Of course, we Seattleites (real or imported) should probably not expect a sunny and warm September. Sigh. Have fun with your friends. I am certain their children won't starve. Some nice fresh ham with une assiette de pates au beurre (coquillettes) should fit the bill nicely. Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

  9. Some recent food articles suggested that enticing kids to eat vegies can be accomplished with fresh cut-up carrots, radishes, broccoli, etc. with some dips - they like activity with their eating! Encourage the good vegies and forget stooping to their level is my idea. Your food preparation skills are fantastic, you should do fine.

    We're not having rain in Oregon, but definitely the weathercasters hit the nail on the head when they forecasted the "marine layer" will be with us in the mornings for a while. (read: cloudy and grey)

  10. Hi to Geri and Phil!

    Your other commenters mentioned every single food I can think of that would appeal to young children except for crepes.

  11. Hi Ken, You've got chicken and I've always found that fried chicken went over well with-6 kids. For little ones, I've taken the cue from McDo and cut the breasts into nugget-sized pieces. Also, in my batter, I add a little curry powder. Carrot sticks, cucumber cut into short sticks or just sliced are generally vegetables that go over well. Mashed potatos are usually a safe bet, too. Hope you weekend goes well.

  12. don't understand how "-6" slipped into my previous comment!


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?