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When I made the galette des rois earlier this month, I had some pâte feuilletée (flaky pastry) left over. I froze it to use another time, and that time was Sunday. I decided to thaw the dough and roll it out to make some croissants. Six little croissants fresh out of the oven. I was able to make six croissants, but they were small. I probably should have made only four, but no matter. I also wonder if I didn't roll them too tightly, since the insides weren't as flaky as they might have been....
Tags: Travel, WCS, Food And Cooking

Winter weather, sort of

On Saturday morning, the temperature dropped just below freezing. That was enough for heavy frost and icy windows, and to make the dirt road out through the vineyard slippery. But we got no snow, just a little rain. I had to be very careful walking the dog. I managed to stay upright, but Tasha slipped on the slick ground and went down. No harm done. A tall stand of pines at the edge of the vineyard just before sunrise. This morning it's raining again, with our morning low well above zero. Janu...
Tags: Travel, Weather, WCS, Tasha, The Vineyard


These are Jerusalem artichokes. Or, as I've heard them called, Jerusalem fartichokes. That is a reference to their propensity to induce digestive distress, i.e. gas. And it's true. Topinambours, in the sun. But they taste really good, so it's a worthy trade-off. The have the firm, crunchy texture of water chestnuts, and a similar flavor. They're good steamed and eaten just as they are, or made into a purée with or without the addition of potatoes. I've read they can be sliced thin and eaten in...
Tags: Travel, Jerusalem, Toulouse, Ken, WCS, Food And Cooking, Topinambours

Jasmin d'hiver

This is winter jasmine, given to us by our friend CHM who took cuttings from a plant that grows in his Parisian garden, if I'm remembering correctly. We've had it for a few years and, not too long ago, transplanted it into this large pot that sits outside the greenhouse. Winter jasmine, a January bloomer. This is the time of year that it blooms, and it's looking pretty good this year. It should get bigger as time goes on. At the base of the pot are three varieties of thyme that I planted after...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Jasmin, Garden Flowers Plants

What's 'maters, precious?

I really need to get out with the camera. I'm reduced to taking pictures of produce. And it's not even tomato season. We try to eat seasonally much of the time, but once in a while you need a fresh tomato. Even if it doesn't have the flavor of the end-of-summer home-grown varieties. They look good. How will they taste? Ken picked up a bunch of tomatoes at the supermarket the other day. Some went into the tacos we made for lunch that day. These are the rest, slated for a salad today. As for sea...
Tags: Travel, Brussels, Ken, WCS, Food And Cooking

Back from the dead

When we arrived in the house back in 2003, we found a Christmas cactus left behind by the previous owner. It wasn't in great shape, but it was alive. Over the years, Ken rooted cuttings from it so that now we have at least five cactus plants going in the house. This one was out on the deck during some of the freezing weather we had in early December. I thought it was a goner. It's looked better, but it definitely has recovered from being brown and shriveled. But we brought it indoors and water...
Tags: Travel, Ken, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

Urbanization may hold key to tiger survival

A new WCS-led study published in the journal Biological Conservation says the future of tigers in Asia is linked the path of demographic transition -- for humans.
Tags: Asia, WCS, Biological Conservation


That's the French word for Vietnamese fried egg rolls. France has a history with Vietnam, and the exchange of food is probably one of the more significant legacies of that relationship. Aside from the war. But I digress. The ingredients, assembled, for making nems. We've made nems before, but it's been a long time. These days we find them easily in the supermarket. But I decided it would be fun to make some again, so a few months ago we got the wrappers from the Asian store. They're rice paper...
Tags: Travel, France, Vietnam, Ken, WCS, Food And Cooking

California camping [4]

This will be the last installment of this mini series from October 2002. We left Death Valley and headed even further south, through the Mojave Desert and on to Salton City and Borrego Springs. We had a campsite reserved in the Anza-Borrego State Park. Again, there were very few campers around and we had a great choice of site. The rustic shade shelter and stone picnic table at our site, with the Jeep and Collette, of course. Some of the sites available included beautiful stone shelters with l...
Tags: Travel, Usa, Camping, California, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Central Valley, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Death Valley, Ken, Collette, WCS, Mojave Desert, Borrego, Borrego Springs

California camping [3]

After our chilly night in the tent, we spent the next night in a motel. That next day we visited the ghost town of Bodie, then saw Mono Lake, but not for the first time. I can't remember if we spent a second night in the motel, but we must have. The good ol' Jeep at our Furnace Creek campsite in Death Valley, California, 2002. Our next destination was the Furnace Creek campground in Death Valley. We had been there once before and wanted to go back. We had no problems with cold there. It was ho...
Tags: Travel, Usa, California, Death Valley, Southern California, WCS, Mono Lake, Death Valley California, Smokey Joe, Bodie, Furnace Creek, Brawny, After Death Valley

California camping [2]

Just a few more shots of our first day out on this trip back in 2002. The car is my 1992 Jeep Cherokee Sport. It was a great vehicle. I was commuting in it at first, but after I got the job in the city I used the subway to go back and forth to work. The car became our weekend errand and recreational vehicle. The '92 Jeep with its roof rack and "basket case." I fitted the Jeep with a roof rack for bikes, then I got an attachment for the rack called "the basket case," or something funny like tha...
Tags: Travel, Usa, California, France, San Francisco, North Carolina, Ken, Collette, Carolina, WCS

California camping [1]

Set the WABAC machine to October 2002. Ken and I took a camping trip through eastern California. We left San Francisco and headed up and over the Sierra Nevada mountains to our first destination on the eastern side, a campground near Twin Lakes. At some point, we stopped for lunch. Then, as we climbed up over the Sonora Pass, it started to snow. Not a great beginning, but it wasn't a big storm and we made it through. It started snowing as we drove over the mountains. This is a car on the road ...
Tags: Travel, Usa, Camping, California, San Francisco, Sierra Nevada, Ken, Collette, WCS, Mono Lake, Sonora Pass

Throwback Thursday

Ken found some old photos on one of his disk drives the other day. I had forgotten about them. Some were photos that I took while Ken was away from home, using one of his digital cameras. These two were taken in September of 2002. We were still living in California. I drove up to Auburn from San Francisco to see our friend Sue, and our dog Collette came with me, of course. We visited a couple of wineries near Sue's house there. Me and Collette, happy in the grass. She was a great dog! She was ...
Tags: Travel, Usa, California, San Francisco, Auburn, Ken, Collette, WCS, Throwback Thursday


We had some snails lounging around in the freezer, so we decided to eat them on Tuesday. I thawed them out, put them in the snail dishes topped with garlic/parsley butter, and popped them into the oven for about ten minutes. They made a good appetizer for the day's lunch. A little messy, but that's what happens when you have butter bubbling in the oven. The main dish was a gratin de chou-fleur, cauliflower in a cheese sauce, browned in the oven. Ken found a nice cauliflower at the supermarke...
Tags: Travel, Ken, WCS, Food And Cooking

Yes is the answer

A friend gave us this bowl many years ago. It's a perfect bowl for keeping clementines in around the holidays, and other special things. The bowl was made by ceramic artist Rae Dunn in Berkeley, California. On a whim, I checked out her web site on the internet recently to see if she was still there. She is. On the back side of the bowl is her signature, in the same stamped type-face letters, followed by a period. It's an interesting concept, getting to the bottom of the bowl only to see the ...
Tags: Travel, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Berkeley California, WCS, Rae Dunn, Kitchen Collection

Old door

Not much going on right now except for cooking and watching tennis on tv. Yesterday we ground up some beef that Ken found on sale and we used part of it to make meatballs for Sunday's lunch. Today we're using another part to add to a filling for burritos. We have meatballs left over for another meal, and then the rest of the ground meat will go into the freezer. This door has seen better days. Today play begins in Sydney and Auckland, the two last men's tournaments before the Australian Open...
Tags: Travel, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Ken, WCS, Whatnot

This year's galette

I don't want to keep you in suspense: Ken got the fève that was hidden in the cake this year. It was a little ceramic fish (a perch) that we got in a store-bought cake many years ago. I kept those fèves from previous galettes and re-use them year after year. The cake turned out well, although it's not really a cake. It's made with two layers of pâte feuilletée (flaky pastry) with frangipane (ground almonds, egg, and sugar) in between. The finished galette, version 2019. I make my own pastry, a...
Tags: Travel, Holidays, California, France, Ken, WCS, Food And Cooking

Where have all the hunters gone?

This is another one of those position markers that we see nailed to trees and posts along the vineyard road out back. They are used by hunters when they take up positions in a battue (an organized hunt). But, even though we're in the middle of hunting season, there have been very few battues in the woods and vineyards around us so far. Like, maybe one. Hunters wait at these spots for the game to be driven toward them. I'm not sure why this is. It could be that the populations of roe deer, fox,...
Tags: Travel, WCS, The Vineyard

From the archives

Back in the fall of 1989 (!), Ken and I took a trip through southern France. He was in Grenoble for a conference and I arranged to meet him there. We rented a car and drove through Provence, then over to the Dordogne Valley and on to the coast before turning north and back toward Paris. We passed through Cognac and stopped at the Martell winery and distillery for a tour and some tasting. A display of vintage cognacs. Finished cognac is almost always a blend from different vintages or, in some ...
Tags: Travel, France, Paris, Provence, Pentax, Ken, WCS, Wine And Spirits, Grenoble, Martell, Dordogne Valley, Southwest France Trip

Bad photo of a good dessert

For New Year's Day, I made a favorite dessert of ours: une tarte amandine aux poires (an almond tart with pears). It's an easy recipe which could be made even easier with a ready-made crust. I don't mind making my own crust, so I did, and pre-baked it before mixing the filling ingredients. The recipe uses canned pear halves, so there's no need to peel and prepare fresh fruit, although you certainly could if you wanted to. The tart looks a little too yellow in this shot because of the lighting....
Tags: Travel, Holidays, WCS, Food And Cooking

Back to rocks and leaves

The tree is down, the decorations are packed away. I will take the lights off the house today. So, at least at our house, the holiday thing is once again done. It was fun. We still have the epiphany coming this weekend. For us, that only means that I'll be making une galette des rois (cake of the kings). There's a special food for every occasion in France. A rock in the road that runs through the vineyards behind our house. The days are still short, although we gain a minute or so of daylight ...
Tags: Travel, France, WCS, The Vineyard

Bonne année 2019 !

Live long, and prosper. And thanks for stopping by! [Author: wcs]
Tags: Travel, Holidays, WCS

Last day under the tree

Our little stuffed Christmas moose (his label says that his name is Moosletoe) is hanging out under the tree this year. Today's his last day out before he goes into hibernation for another year, along with all the other holiday decorations. My tradition is to put Christmas away on New Year's Day. I think that started because NYD was often the last day off before going back to work. And, by NYD, a cut tree is dropping needles like crazy. The Santa candle was a gift, the stuffed bird and fabric ...
Tags: Travel, Holidays, Santa, WCS, Moosletoe


Just a little wild mushroom in the grass. They liked the damp, warm days we had in the late fall and I noticed many different varieties sprouting in all the usual places. The grasses around us have gone from summer brown to winter green. And the winter wheat has sprouted in the fields. We've started gaining minutes of daylight, although it's not at all perceptible yet. But in a couple of weeks we should start noticing it staying light a little later, and getting lighter a little earlier in the...
Tags: Travel, Wildflowers, WCS


This is cerfeuil (chervil) growing in a little bed on the western side of the house. I've been planting chervil seeds here for a couple of years now with mixed results. The spring crop has been good, and we use some, but then it goes to seed quickly and doesn't come back. It's a delicate herb and doesn't like hot weather. Sprouts of chervil coming up among fall's leaf litter. Well, last year the seed crop was abundant, and this fall I noticed these seedlings coming up all on their own. They're...
Tags: Travel, WCS, Garden Flowers Plants

How it spreads

Mistletoe is a widespread parasite in our part of France. It's certainly present in our yard, seriously infecting two of our apple trees. Both of them are on their last legs, with more gui (mistletoe) than actual leaves in their branches. A couple of mistletoe berries fell from the plant above and were caught in the crotch of this tree. Mistletoe produces these white berries, and birds feed on them. When the bird poops, the seeds are often deposited on another branch and take root. Mistletoe t...
Tags: Travel, France, Wildflowers, WCS

The old fashioned way

In the spring, when all the grape vine pruning has been done, the growers will fasten the single remaining cane of each vine to the guide wires. They normally use metal fasteners that are applied with an electric stapler-like tool. But, here and there, you see some string. Whatever was tied with this piece of string is gone now. I'm thinking that the string is used during the growing season to tie up a wayward stem that didn't get fastened in the early spring. It's just a guess. [Author: wcs]
Tags: Travel, WCS, The Vineyard

Bûche de Noël

I haven't made one of these in many years. The bûche (yule log) is a traditional French Christmas dessert. It's a jelly roll/sponge cake, usually filled and frosted with chocolate buttercream, made to resemble a log. The bûches from a supermarket or bakery are much less rustic looking than mine and often pretty fancy, and they come in a variety of flavors. My bûche de Noël, before we ate some. This one is pretty simple, and kind of a mess, but it was tasty. I cut off one of the ends and stuck ...
Tags: Travel, Holidays, Santa, Noël, WCS, Food And Cooking, Buche de Noel

Happy Christmas

Well, here we are. Puppy Claus has come and gone and left tasty morsels for dogs and kitty cats. And for us. We shall be enjoying a roast beast with all the trimmings. A favorite wooden tree ornament. Here's hoping that however you celebrate the end of the year, that you can do it in style with those you love. [Author: wcs]
Tags: Travel, Holidays, WCS

Xmas eve

The old joke: It's not Christmas, and stop calling me Eve. Today we'll be making our annual fondue Suisse, a cheese fondue, for lunch. Three kinds of cheese from the region around the France/Switzerland border go into the dish, with some white wine. Then we dunk chunks of bread and apple into it. Yum. A Life Savers tree ornament. I also have a green one. It's nice to have traditions, rituals, to help mark the time. Traditions need not be religious to have significance in our lives. French peop...
Tags: Travel, Holidays, France, WCS, Food And Cooking