Le Moulin des Landes

On the western coast of France, sort of halfway between Nantes and La Rochelle is a tiny community that is tacked on to the village of La Chapelle Achard. This collection of houses in the middle of farmland is where our good friends Danielle and Sylvain live with their four kids and menagerie of animals.

Stone farm house of Danielle and Sylvain.

Stone farm house of Danielle and Sylvain.

This is our second time visiting and we love the slow pace of country life mixed with the chaos of four kids, two cats, a dog, and three sheep. There is never a dull moment in this house, even though it looks sleepy and peaceful from this angle.

Indi the English Pointer

Indi the English Pointer

This is Indi, quite possibly the sweetest English Pointer that ever pointed. He’s still quite young, only three, and is full of pep and energy. I’ve been told when he is out on the hunt everyone calls him “The White Bomb” because he tears across the fields with incredible speed. When he’s home, he thinks he’s tiny because he will try to crawl into your lap for a belly rub. He is not tiny. Nor is he fixed, and his plums are often the source of mirth in the house because they are so… well, plummy.

Who's a good boy?

Who’s a good boy?

Pan the sheep

Pan the sheep

This is Pan. He has a wife named Grovey, and a son named Lamb Chop. All three had just been shorn shortly before this picture was taken. Pan looks delirious with relief her, mostly because we had just been through a heat wave and I am sure he was feeling the burn.

Danielle's hydrangeas

Danielle’s hydrangeas

Danielle has incredible hydrangeas growing next to the garage right on the road. Tourists stop to take pictures of them. This tourist stopped to take pictures of them. They are truly splendid.

Well hello, my deer.

Well hello, my deer.

Sylvain is a part owner in a deer farm. There are three types: Sica, Red, and Fallow deer. These are the red deer. We went to visit them all and bring them lunch, which Mr. Himself is munching on here.

 

Our hosts, Danielle and Sylvain in Nuremburg.

Our hosts, Danielle and Sylvain in Nuremburg.

And this post wouldn’t be complete without Danielle and Sylvain themselves. We found we traveled very well together. They are wonderful friends and Kosta and I love them both very much. It would be nice if we could see each other more than every few years. But (!) they want to visit Greece with us in 2018. It is ON.

Note: I didn’t post any pictures of the kidlets because I haven’t asked permission from their parents yet. If they say okay, I’ll tell you about all four of them in turn. They’re pretty fantastic, as far as kids go.

Unexpected Events

Things have been great on vacation. We met up with our friends in Munich, and spent several days visiting Nuremberg, Würzburg, Bamberg, and Rothenberg ob der Tauber. We were treated to such views as this:

Nuremberg. Totally hideous, isn't it?

Nuremberg. Totally hideous, isn’t it?

We have had a wonderful time reconnecting with our friends Danielle and Sylvain, and we have discovered a few things about German culture.

  1. They like cash. I think I only used my credit card to pay for the hotel and the rental car. Cash everywhere else.
  2. Sparkling water is called Sprudelwasser.
  3. The Germans are crazy for pork and cabbage:

    That's a lot of sauerkraut.

    That’s a lot of sauerkraut.

Seriously. I ate so much pork I thought I was going to sprout a curly tail. Pork at every meal. Cabbage hiding under the lettuce of your salad and of course the ubiquitous sauerkraut. We went to the grocery store and they had an entire Wall O’ Pork. They are totally serious about their pig food products.

We are now comfortably ensconced in our friends’ old stone farmhouse in Western France. And it was good to be surrounded by friends because the totally unexpected happened.

The other day I got a text from my Mom saying Dad had been having chest pains. They went to the ER, ran some tests, and the upshot was Dad had to have triple bypass surgery. It happened today and went extremely well. He is in recovery and all signs point to a good recovery. But the fact that I wasn’t with my mother to sit there and hold her hand while her husband of 46 years had open heart surgery left me a quivering mess.

But my wonderful friend Danielle helped me through with Reiki. If you don’t know what Reiki is, I invite you to read about it here. Basically, it is healing energy from the Divine that a practitioner can channel into another being: human, animal or plant. I’ve been a practitioner for several years now and Danielle is the Reiki Master who has taught me. Together we created a flow of Reiki that was sent directly to my father, thousands of miles away. It was proactive and left me feeling more in control of my emotions and hopeful of a positive outcome. I held it together.

Dad will probably be in the hospital for five or six days. Kosta and I debated over what to do. In the end, (mostly because we can’t afford to change our plane tickets) we are going to continue with our vacation. Trust me when I say it was not an easy decision to make. Most of me is longing to be home with my family. Everyone seems to be coping reasonably well. Mom has been so brave and capable and I am proud of her for surviving an extremely difficult situation.

The last couple of days have been rough, for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much on a vacation before. But Dad has survived his ordeal, Mom is coping with hers, and Kosta and I will deal with ours.

Perplexed and a little frightened...

Perplexed and a little frightened…

 

 

We gotta say goodbye for the summer…

The Friday morning breakfast club met this afternoon for coffee. It was our last time together until the end of August. As early as Tuesday we all go our separate ways for the summer. It was bittersweet, because I love these people so much and yet I am raring to get on with vacation.

The weekend started out with a birthday party. Miss Tammy, my rainbow girl, turned the big 5-0 this week. There was a long table of us at Wyld’s Cafe in Bonita Springs to help her celebrate. There was great food, fantastic company and a decadent chocolate cake from Norman Love to complete the night.

Because cake is so important...

Because cake is so important…

Like I said, this afternoon we all met for coffee to say our goodbyes. Tammy is off to the Jersey shore for three weeks before she and Diane jet off to Peru to see Machu Picchu. Then later they will be joining family in Seattle and perhaps do an Alaskan cruise.

Of course, Kosta and I are set for our trip to Europe. 18 days! And dear Cary will be stuck at home, keeping the breakfast table saved for us until we return. Don’t think we’ll forget you! There will be a special present for you, our keeper of the Eternal Breakfast Flame.

Summer is going to be full-throttle, but so much fun. Before you know it the end of August will be here and everyone will be back. And I can’t wait to hear all about the adventures.

Of course, our day was marred by the horrific news out of Orlando. I don’t understand why this keeps happening. I suppose my head does, but my heart cannot fathom why. All those fallen and their families are in my prayers. Other than that I don’t have the words to convey my heavy heart.

ZING!

ZING ZING ZING went my heartstrings.

ZING ZING ZING went my heartstrings.

Vacation is 27 days away and plans are really starting to come together. Every day, every few hours or so, I get a zing of excitement surge through me. Here is what the plan is:

  • Leave 30 June for Vienna and arrive on 1 July. We will spend the 1-3 July  in the city, soaking up the atmosphere, drinking coffee and sampling pastry.
  • 4 July we will collect an rental car and drive from Vienna to Salzburg, stopping in little towns that tickle our fancies along the way.
  • 5-6 of July will be spent in Salzburg and the environs. Kosta is wildly excited about visiting Hohenwerfen where there is a medieval castle that was featured in his very favorite movie: Where Eagles Dare.
  • 7 July will take us by train to Munich where we will meet our dear friends Danielle and Sylvain, who live in France. We will spend the night in Munich, perhaps drink a little beer.
  • 8-12 July will be touring Bavaria. I booked a darling Airbnb in the little village of Bad Windsheim. We’ll be making day trips from there to places like Linderhof Palace, perhaps Oberammergau, Garmische Partenkirchen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Wurzburg, Nuremburg and others. We haven’t made a hard plan for this and I am kind of excited to see where we go.

    Isn't Bad Windsheim adorable?

    Isn’t Bad Windsheim adorable?

  • 13 July we fly from Munich to Paris and then take the train to the Vendee where our French friends live. We will stay with them for about a week and have fun with the whole family.
  • 22 July we take the train to Paris and check into a hotel near Les Halles and a short walk to the Louvre. We plan to spend the whole next day at the museum and then fly home the next day on the 24th.

As my dear friend Danielle would say, “Roll on, June 30!”

Riptide Brewing Company

Last Friday night we went to the new microbrewery in Naples. I was so excited as Kosta and I both love beer (don’t get me started on looking forward to Bavaria and Austria this summer) and we couldn’t believe our luck that this new place is just five blocks from our place of work. This could be a dangerous Friday night habit to get into.

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Riptide Brewing Company, 987 3rd Ave N. Naples, FL

The interior--love the mermaid coming out of the wall.

The interior–love the mermaid coming out of the wall.

The vats are in full view of everyone sitting in the bar, and infused the place with a nice, malty scent.

The vats are in full view of everyone sitting in the bar, and infused the place with a nice, malty scent.

My sampler from left to right: Whitewater Wit Bier, Paddlepuss Blonde, Porter Pounder, and Wye Nut Brown.

My sampler from left to right: Whitewater Wit Bier, Paddlepuss Blonde, Porter Pounder, and Wye Nut Brown.

The Dangerous Nymph's Nectar. Goes down smooth with a 9.3% alcohol content.

The Dangerous Nymph’s Nectar. Goes down smooth with a 9.3% alcohol content. Heavens, it was tasty.

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The brewery doesn’t serve food but you can bring it in or have it delivered. That night a brick oven pizza food truck was parked out back. Their Bianca was killer.

We also had the Goat Cheese and Portobella pizza too.

We also had the Goat Cheese and Portobello pizza too.

My husband's favorite: The Porter Pounder with his beautiful amber and silver komboloi.

My husband’s favorite: The Porter Pounder with his beautiful amber and silver komboloi.

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Kosta and Tammy with Di photobombing.

A good time was had by all. We'll be back.

A good time was had by all. We’ll be back.

The Ramblin’ Palates at Yoder’s Amish Restaurant, Sarasota, FL

The latest quest for a fabulous meal took me and my group of friends to Sarasota, FL. It was Val’s choice this month and she picked Yoder’s Amish Restaurant. There were seven of us this time: Tammy, Di, Val, Cary, Kosta, me, and Kim, our newbie, who is a good friend of Val. Tammy believes taking multiple cars is “unacceptable” so we rented a van for the day to accommodate all of us, because no one can say no to Tammy. At least not when she rolls out the “unacceptable” tactic.

How can you say no to that smile?

How can you say no to that smile?

Yoder’s Amish Restaurant was profiled on Man vs. Food and you can watch the episode here. It was raining and cold, and the perfect day for some comfort food.  And let me tell you, the place was PACKED.

We stood in line for 20 minutes for a table.

We stood in line for 20 minutes for a table. Ooh, check out the guy doing the un-photo bomb in the back. 

 

Di and her chicken livers and mashed potatoes.

Di and her chicken livers.

 

Tammy with fried chicken.

Tammy with fried chicken and mac and cheese.

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Kosta with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans, and Val across the way with meatloaf, fried okra, and mashed potatoes.

Yours truly with fried chicken, potato cakes, and fried okra.

Yours truly with fried chicken, potato cakes, and fried okra.

Let's get a close up of that lunch, shall we? The chicken was amazing.

Let’s get a close up of that lunch, shall we? The chicken was amazing.

Of course, you can't go to Yoder's without having a piece of pie. Because it's PIE.

Of course, you can’t go to Yoder’s without having a piece of pie. Because it’s PIE. That is a slice of cokernut cream being shared by the Dynamic Duo.

Oh hell YES.

Oh hell YES.

Afterwards we didn’t necessarily want to call it a day, but the weather was miserable so a few of the girls wanted to visit the HSN store. Some of us who are not so into shopping popped into the pet store next door where a puppy extravaganza was going on.

Look at that adorable face. The pug is pretty cute too.

Look at that adorable face. The pug is pretty cute too.

Good heavens. Just rip my heart out and take it, will you?

Good heavens. Just rip my heart out and take it, will you?

Tam's fetching makeshift rain gear.

Tam’s fetching makeshift rain gear.

Finally, we decided to stop at BJ’s Brewhouse for a drink before calling it a day.  We just wanted to sit at the bar but the staff wouldn’t let us pull the high top tables together and made us sit in the restaurant, where we took up two tables pulled together. The waitress was not happy that she was losing major tip money and was rather brusque. I can’t blame her, but for crying out loud it wasn’t our fault.

The one nice thing the waitress did for us.

The one nice thing the waitress did for us.

Would you look at that handsome devil? Dear reader, I married him.

Would you look at that handsome devil? Dear reader, I married him.

Next month is Shorty’s BBQ in Miami. Stay tuned for another drool-fest of food!

My rainbow girl

imageThis is my friend Tammy. She is a total nut and I love her dearly. I recently knit her a pair of socks. You can see them on her hands here. The reason I chose to make rainbow socks was because Tammy reminds me of a rainbow: bright, beautiful, positive, and something I am always glad to see.

I think she likes them. She was also presented with a matching rainbow sweater vest from our friends Ingrid and Tara.

You go, Rainbow Girl.

Ramblin’ Palates at the Bubble Room

The Bubble Room is an institution on Captiva Island, just of the coast of Southwest Florida. I know its been a while, but look at all the fun we had on December 6. True, there were only 4 of us (we were missing Cary and Di!) but we had a blast. Observe:

The Bubble Room

It doesn’t look like much outside, but inside you’ll find a wonderland of themes rooms most of them adorned with toys from the 20’s to the 40’s.

Lunch is served!

I don’t remember what everyone had, but I had a Pita Fonda. All the items on the menu were bad puns on old time movie stars.

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Me and my Pita Fonda. It was quite delicious.

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My husband peering around his Turk Douglass.

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Tammerooni with her scrumptious lunch.

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I texted this one to Di–who is married to Tammy. I asked her if we should be worried. She said she was on her way home.

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All the waitstaff dressed in kitschy scout uniforms. This is our waitress presenting another table with the dessert offerings.

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Oh baby. I only ate half my Pita Fonda in anticipation of this platter of diabetic coma.

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Just had throw this in here. My husband isn’t a self-proclaimed happy jackass for nothing.

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Kosta and I shared this. And even though I say we shared it, we did not manage to finish it. This was the orange crunch cake which is the signature dessert at the Bubble Room. I cannot begin to describe how outstanding it was.

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After lunch we explored the restaurant a bit more, as we were encouraged to do. Here is sweet Val waiting for her prince charming to join her in the Tunnel of Love.

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Of course there was more fun to be had outside. Tammy doesn’t even need to be hopped up on sugar.

 

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See? She’s so shy. I wish there was some way we could coax her out of her shell.

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There was a Bubble Room git shop next door. Look at my handsome prince!

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I didn’t get a lot of good pictures of Val, but I think this one shows her good side. What do you think?

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But hold on, the party ain’t over yet. On the way back across Sanibel Island (the only way in and out of Captiva) Tammy saw a sign and turned sharpish into a parking lot. We had just stumbled upon a new Bennett’s Fresh Roast. These folks roast their own coffee and make their own donughts on site. So what if we already consumed 5000 calories each? Dooughnuts are not a foodstuff to be taken lightly.

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See what I frickin’ mean? The plain glazed belonged to Kosta. I had the other one — the almond frosted coconut.

I don’t know what this is. Maybe we need to get her evaluated.

That was our day: sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, goofiness, and then a wicked case of the hiccups on the way home for me.

It was totally worth every one.