Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall Harvest

Autumn in Grenoble is absolutely beautiful and very Indian summer like.  Temperatures still hover between 16C to 20C, and the high abundance of deciduous trees that surround the mountainous slopes of our home make the fall scenery a delight for the eyes.  It is the perfect time to go hiking, climbing (yes, the climbing season here is quite long!), wine tasting and harvest of course!  This fall I set out to explore the surroundings of Grenoble to find walnuts and edible chestnuts as they are grown here in large quantities.  Chestnuts are very popular here not only for roasting but they are also used to produce chestnut spread, chestnut mousse, chestnut jogurt and other types of dessert, for example.  Walnuts are also included in many local recipes such as the salad Dauphinoise which I have not tried out yet, but is considered a local specialty.

And so one weekend we set out for a little walk in the vicinity of Hurtières, where we found many fallen walnuts on the trail as well as wild chestnuts in the forest.  The chestnuts, however, were very tiny and not quite ripe yet.  Regardless, it was fun to walk around and collect the nuts and at least it was entertaining for the kids. 

As sharp as needles!

Our collection.

Chestnut tree from below.

Chestnut tree from above.

Deep in conversation.

Sheep, near Hurtieres.

As I said, the chestnuts were too scrawny and got moldy before we even tasted them, so hopefullly next year I will find a better spot and good timing.  At the end, I did end up buying (local) chestnuts at the grocery store and they were the best I've ever had.  Massive in size, very easy to peal, sweet and melt-in-your-mouth.  The walnuts we picked required cleaning, washing and drying, but at the end it was a very nice treat and will be at Christmas time.

Another weekend  idea was to go to the adventure park up in St. Nizier since we haven't taken the kids there for a while.  Jakub has been training his uphill running, so he jogged from our house to St. Nizier, which is roughly 1000m in elevation.  Pretty impressive, I'd say!  We drove up there to greet him at the "finish" line :).

And then it was time to head to the adventure park where the kids get harnesses and go on all sorts of rope bridges, obstacles and zip lines.  

The first obstacle - cows in the parking lot :).  These lovely ladies provide us with the milk for the local cheese "bleu du vercors".

Anna on the course.

While the kids were having fun (and Jakub too, I hope), I started looking around and saw tonnes of fly amanitas (Amanita muscaria) and it became almost challenging not to step on one by accident.  So I decided to wonder deeper into the forest to see if I can find any edible mushrooms, and sure enough, this was a perfect time and place to be if you're an avid mushroom picker or a hallucinogen seeker.

Interesting quote of the day: "In eastern Siberia, the shaman would consume the mushrooms, and others would drink his urine.  This urine, still containing psychoactive elements, may actually be more potent than the A. muscaria mushrooms with fewer negative effects, such as sweating and twitching, suggesting that the initial user may act as a screening filter for other components in the mushroom (taken from wikipedia)

First edible find! Bay bolete/ Boletus badius ?

In a few minutes I found several edible mushrooms including some perfect porcinis, but the icing on the cake was when I found a rather large porcini mushroom that was the size of my whole foot, untouched only with a few superficial slug holes.  At this point I really thought that I was hallucinating.

My lucky find.

385g, 20cm.  My record in my mushroom picking career.

Ready for cooking.

Cream of wild mushroom soup.  Mmmmmmm.

Deep fried 'shrooms.

Fall in the wine country is of course very exciting as there are the so called "wine fairs" in every supermarket and you get great deals on wines as well as a very large selection lasting about two weeks between end of September and start of October.  I studied all the little catalogues very well this year and went around to get some nice wines that I want to try out in the winter when we have our fireplace lit :D.

Our fall/winter 2012 wine collection :) I don't think I've ever owned this many, I must be getting into this!

But life isn't always about having fun of course :), the next day on Sunday, I became ill with some viral bug, and had to stay home for several days, to catch yet another virus just when I recovered and finished my antibiotics for laryngitis/bronchitis...and had a lovely itchy rash break out all over, either from the virus or antibiotics.  So it took me 3 wks to get better again in total -- part of the fall season as well I guess!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

September weekend.

Finallly, it seems like we've settled into the school year again.  It's been very hectic in September adjusting to regular school hours and work hours, dropping the kids off to two different schools mainly on bikes, buying all the school supplies, attending parent meetings (some in French!), signing up the kids for extra-curricular activities, helping with homework...  All that with no family help, but somehow miraculously we managed.  After the first few weeks of all this, at last I had the time to renew my membership in the climbing gym and started climbing regularly as well as keeping up with semi-regular jogging sessions slightly uphill here where we live.  We also decided to start playing squash with Jakub once every two weeks, but it turns out to be rather pricey here in Grenoble.  Work is also still very fulfilling - so I am content as ever before.  The synchrotron is now in full mode again, hence Jakub has more than enough work, sometimes spending time there on weekends whether it's visitors that he has to take care of or his own experiment.  Not to mention that once in a while he has to go to a conference and I'm here on my own.  Therefore, when we realized we had one weekend that we could spend together as a family, we seized the opportunity and went on our probably last camping trip of the year here in France. 

Saturday was spent at an amusement park (Walibi) because we promised the kids to take them there again this year.  It was actually a surprise, so they had no clue we were taking them there until we basically arrived and it was neat to see them get very excited.  This time, Tommy went on most of the extreme rides with Jakub.  Anna and I just watched and I documented.  I'm sure Anna would go too though, if she was tall enough.

Tommy, who usually gets very plane sick, seemed to handle this totally fine.

The guy behind Jakub seems to be praying for his life and then there's the lady on the right.... :)

Aside from crazy rides, the park has a little zoo, and petting zoo, as well as pony rides, so we hung out there for a bit.

The goats seemed to be very intrigued by literature.

But chewing on clothes turned out to be more interesting at the end.

And even Tommy gave up on reading.

Pony ride with papa.

After a full day of rides, we headed to the Chartreuse mountain range where we set up our tent and camped out.

On Sunday we went on a nice easy going hike to Saint-Même, les cascades du Guiers (waterfalls). 

The morning was very misty and chilly, but in the afternoon the sun came out and it still felt like summer.
Cool cave on the way, so we checked it out.

Les cascades du Guiers

At the end of the day, we managed to squeeze in a bit of climbing at Rochers du Mollard.  We visited a good "family" climbing spot so the kids could also enjoy it.

That's all folks!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tommy's 9th birthday.

My boy turned 9 this year, which made me realize how grown up he is already and how really fast time has gone by.  I mean, he's half way to 18 already!  So this might be a good time to reflect on the past, think about my current parenting skills, determine where we are at in our relationship, and where we want to be.  I'd like to see myself improving as a parent, and so this will be one of my key focuses for the next little while :).  I'm grateful for having two beautiful and healthy kids. ♥ 

We had a nice party in the local park - our favourite to do picnics.

Make a wish!!!

Having a "family" cake with our landlord Martine (yummy strawberry pie made by her), she is the most sweet lady I've met and really reminds me of my grandmother.

Looking very positive here :)

Czeching out Prague.

In August, Jakub was at a week long conference in Prague (most likely some very serious scientific stuff, just ask him about it.... :).  So this was my second summer visit to Czech Republic.  The main goal was to help out and share the long drive back with the kids, but of course I was not at all disappointed that I could squeeze in a day of sight-seeing in Prague with Jakub.

Prague is a very fun city to visit and I've always only heard positive comments about it from everyone.  This vibrant city of many faces offers a rich cultural and historical experience, hip nightlife, good food, cheap and excellent beer and of course a chance to meet beautiful people.  This gem has it all for the young and the old...and so we explored for one day and it was good times.

Quenching our thirst with the golden beverage ;)

Dumplings and Svíčková.  A very traditional Czech dish.

Hand made wooden spinning tops.

A visit to the Jewish cemetery and synagogue - very eye opening and sad.

A view of the Charle's bridge and Prague Castle from the Powder Tower.

Jakub walking on cobble stoned Charle's bridge.

For all the photos from Prague, click HERE.

In Brno I had some time to see my dad and Jana.  We went out for dinner to a really handy place (and these are actually very common in Europe).  Basically it is a Beer garden right beside a playground, so while the kids play, the parents can enjoy some food and beer without listening to the constant whining how boring it is.

Dad and Jana.

Only for the brave - raw meat and egg....the steak tartare.  Last time I ate this stuff was by accident when I was 18 or so, let me tell you I'll never do it again!

Half of the summer, Anna and Tommy spent with their cousins, Eliška and Víťa.  So it was hard to say goodbye.

Cheap child labour ;)

After all the summer fun, it was time to be a responsible parent once again, so we packed our "circus" as Jakub calls it, bought a beer keg, and off we went to Grenoble.    The 16 hour drive was not any different than before so the next day we all passed out and took it easy.

~~~~sweet dreams~~~~~