blackberries, bordeaux (the city), basque country…and blessings

our favorite spring harvest!

our favorite spring harvest!

dear friends and relatives of…

yes, it’s been forever since my last blogpost.  MUCH has happened this spring and i will do my best to synopsize.

first of all, and most exciting:  domenica is returning this week from her escapades in europe.  during and after her semester abroad in pau/pyrenees, she traveled to: barcelona, bayonne, bordeaux, biarritz, toulouse, lourdes, paris (3 times!), budapest, vienna, san sebastian and dublin.  we cannot wait to hear of her many adventures, newfound friends and enjoy her smile and warm demeanor.

in late april dave and i had the pleasure of meeting domenica’s lovely and nurturing french host family, the duranteaus of PAU.  with domenica in tow, we spent a couple of weeks in beautiful pau and the surrounding lush basque countryside.  highlights were the jurancon valley, the grottoes of betharram, bayonne (especially the BASQUE museum), san sebastian and biarritz.  the biarritz “les alles” (farmers’ market) was the most bountiful and vibrant farmers’ market i’ve ever attended.  ALL of the crops/food products were of exceptional quality and the displays were impressive.  we concluded our visit of southwestern france with three nights in bordeaux, a beautiful UNESCO-recognized city.  i was blessed to spend my 60th birthday there with dave and domenica and it was the perfect “celebration of life”.  after a healthy breakfast at our apartment, we ventured to the GALERIE DES BEAUX-ARTS.  after taking in the art, we happened upon a small, yet well-stocked, farmers’ market.  we purchased picnic treats:  local fresh cheeses, salami, breadsticks, pesto, strawberries and a bottle of red wine, bien sur (of course!)!  our picnic in the sunny museum gardens, amidst the many blooms, is something that i will remember forever.  i didn’t think it could get any better, but then domenica pulled out the perfect birthday gift for (her) mom—a brightly colored and lettered tea towel from bordeaux.  she knows me well…

once sated from our flavorful picnic, we enjoyed a coffee and canele at BAILLARDRAN, the famous shop.  we strolled the cobbled streets and found a large bookstore, LIBRAIRIE MOLLAT and spent some time browsing.  little did i know, dave and domenica secretly purchased 3 small cookbooks (in french) to add to my collection. that afternoon we enjoyed an organized wine tasting with erik at WINE CELLAR & CO. erik was very personable and knowledgeable and his shop is well-stocked with wines of the bordeaux region.  after a respite and a walk along LA GARONNE (river) we had an authentic and delicious meal at a local “bordelaise’ bistro.  we started with a champagne toast to the birthday girl (me), to domenica for studying abroad in such a unique and lovely place, and to dave, for working so hard to make it all happen and taking the time off work to be with his “girls”.

may 4th (my 60th) seems ages ago and we’re back to our respective routines at work and home.  however, there is much to be happy about in cardiff as well.  we are blessed with daily baskets of ripe, juicy, antioxidant laden blackberries.  please see my FACEBOOK page for a representative photo of a blackberry, nectarine, walnut “crisp” that dave and i made last week.  the rest of the garden is doing well, too, with dahlias, cherry tomatoes and melons coming shortly.

soon domenica will arrive home for summer (or part thereof) and you can be sure we’ll be “playing in the kitchen”, posting recipes and photos and testing them first on dave, our resident (and happy) taste tester.

hope your spring has been blessed as well and thank you for reading…


p.s.  a spécial merci beaucoup to adam louis troldahl (domenica’s cousin) who was the consummate host during her stay in vienna.

blackberries and beautiful daughters…

a favorite shot...domenica harvesting some blackberries!

a favorite shot…domenica harvesting some blackberries!

happy mother’s day to all you special women!

though my daughter is away at school and unable to celebrate the day with me (she did text first thing this morning!), today brought forth a powerful reminder of her presence in our lives.  this afternoon we harvested our first bowl of plump, juicy, sweet, perfectly ripened blackberries from our backyard vines.

domenica has grown up (see photo) harvesting the ready to eat blackberries since she was a toddler.  when she was born we planted three small vines which have mushroomed to maybe fifteen.  this isn’t counting the stray vines we’ve given away.  i have fond memories of her harvesting, eating as many as she put into the colander (the best part of picking!) and having deep purple stains on her hands, mouth and shirts.  when she was old enough to assist me with baking, we’d make muffins with blackberries as a focal point or cook up some refrigerator jam (for ice cream and yogurt).  recently, though, we’ve graduated to blackberry cobblers, claufoutis and galettes.  so easy, loaded with fresh fruit, colorful, flavorful and relatively healthy as desserts go.   we often add nectarines or tart apples to our dessert creations then bake until golden and bubbling.  yum…i can smell them now!  and don’t forget about adding them to your salads for a burst of sweet/tart goodness…more blackberry posts with recipes will be forthcoming, i suspect.

these simple pleasures and memories will remain in my heart/mind forever and remind me of the beautiful and fulfilling bliss it has been to have a child.

i hope your day has been filled with lovely memories as well.


p.s.  domenica planted the sweetpeas (from seed) in the above photo when she was here for her recent winter break.  there are literally hundreds of blooms now, bringing loads of bees and adding a sweet scent to our front yard garden.  i suspect one of these days domenica will enjoy a garden of her own…that would make a mother (and dad) proud.