Friday we packed our bags for France… in Greenville! We travel the world with a group of friends, every month stopping in a different country; this month, Mikus’s birthplace, our home for three years and a place I still dream about – France!
I volunteered to host la grande affaire, pulling out all the stops to share some of what we experienced while living in la belle France. To facilitate participation we split the kids up into groups, letting them explore the stations at their own speed. I led the gateau au yaourt baking in the kitchen, using the super-easy yogurt cake recipe that children in France learn to cook with. The excitement over donning aprons and cracking eggs was tangible, and the resulting cake was delicious as always, even the accidental one sans eggs – we were so busy having fun we forgot a few ingredients!
My mother put on her teaching hat… er, beret, and covered French artist Monet. After discussing his love of nature, his temper and the roots of French Impressionism, they proceeded to make Monet water lily-inspired art by soaking cold press watercolor paper in water and then using squeeze bottles filled with nontoxic liquid watercolors to create vibrant explosions of color. After the color spreads through capillary action, sprinkling on some salt on the still-wet paint produces a salt-effect, little starbursts of texture. Using white tempera paint some artists added their own water lilies, and I think several of the parents were surprised with the quality of the resulting works of art. (My mother suggests these Strathmore watercolor postcards as an ideal summer art project that can be shared with family and friends via USPS…)
Another mother set up a mosaic station for the opportunity to learn and glue the colors of the French flag. In addition to the dozen children’s books we had out from our time abroad (a couple even in English: Henri's Walk to Paris and and Mr. Chicken Goes to Paris) and the Madeline DVD we had playing, I had ordered felt berets for the kids to take home with them. Maybe slightly over-the-top, but our petits voyageurs loved them and it provided a great photo-op! Among the guests was also a grand-mère de France, a complete coincidence but perfect addition as she was able to add another dimension to our studies, including a French chanson pour enfants, madaleines and Le Petit Ecolier, treats my sons had not tasted for several years.
Lunchtime. Our déjeuner was far from petit! Our friend had made Salade Niçoise, oeufs farcis and ratatouille, and of course we sampled the yogurt cake the kids had baked themselves. Another friend brought quiches and croque-monsieurs that disappeared faster than you can say mon dieu and some fresh baguettes and tarts from local Legrand French bakery. My contribution was cherry clafouti and Galette des Rois – the Feast of Epiphany king cake with a fève hidden inside that one lucky participant found in her slice.
Once we had finished crowning the queen (and she had chosen her king), we continued our feast with a French cheese and wine tasting. Although our Trader Joe’s has a good selection, I had made the trip to Whole Foods for the day’s selection; Blue de Auvergne (a blue cheese from the region we lived in), St Nectaire (also from the Auvergne), Pyrenees Brebis Herve Mons & bucherondin (sheep and goat’s milk, respectively) with a brie to round out the plate. I had originally thought to offer a red and a white wine (and I found two vins de Bordeaux that fit the bill at Whole Foods), but amended that to a red, white and rosé! when I realized it is almost summer and that’s what I would be drinking if I were in Aix-en-Provence, after all (right Sara Louise?!!!?).
It was early evening when the last beret-wearing enfant left. We were tired from a day of rambunctious children and so dinner was basically leftovers, but thankfully Roberts didn’t complain when he was served a selection of French cheese for dinner! Maybe it was the rosé that had something to do with it?