Notes from Rabbit Hill | SUNDAY BROCANTES
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January -- and Baby it's cold outside!  Or rather -- it's freezing. There is finally a shift from every day being in the 40's f and our part of Normandy is a frosty wonderland.  I wish I could say 'snowy', but I still think that potentially will come too.

This first letter of the new year is a lengthy one ... so brew that pot of tea, get cozy in your favorite chair. 

A little bit of news and the recipe for the pears that I promised to share, thoughts about the new year, updates about the online shop ...

Thanks for taking time to be a part of it all!

Bonjour 2 0 1 6!


I had such expectations for the start of the new year ... Monday the 4th was going to be the energetic launch; filled with blank journals, to-do lists, magazine clippings and Pinterest pins.  The much needed 'diet' would be begin and maybe even a brisk walk around the lake planned.

And then came ... the chicken-pox.

Sunday night, the night before 'les enfants' were to return to school -- those ominous spots began to appear all over Petite-Fille.  (The older two have already had it during our first year in France.) Nothing to do but put those best laid plans aside and plan a week of rest, warm soothing baths (argile-blanche was the trick!) and long, long days of entertaining the girlie once the itching subsided but the tell-tale spots remained.

I have to say I was a bit thrown, being the planner and doer that I am, to have the new year course of action delayed.  Even knowing it was just for the one week at most, I was anxious about it and once I also began to get worn out from the almost round the clock nursing and entertaining, the fatigue opened the door to angst.  You know that feeling that kills all creativity and makes you doubt every single thing you are doing and every idea you have?

Not a good way to start the year, I thought.

But here's the thing.  Now a few weeks past that, I am already realizing that it wasn't necessarily a bad way to launch the new year.  Having to respond to the sudden need of the agitated poxy-child and then the forced 'house arrest' while she wasn't in school, made me look pretty hard at a few things.

 I did a little re-evaluation of my plans.  I had some good conversations with God about directions that I thought were already established and realized that maybe I was so excited to get started that I had forgotten to ask what HIS plan was.

I also really took a close look at what was truly bothering me.  Where was the self-doubt coming from?  I realized that I had to take some big steps away from things that were consistently making me unhappy. 

Like what for example?  First was a few people disguised as 'friends' that are (were) in my life... those that were more often negative than positive.  I realized that I was giving those people the power to influence how I felt about myself and my efforts and ideas.  Time to stop that.

Next... why was I doing things that contributed to self-doubt and angst?  Do you find yourself looking at social networks with your coffee in the morning and within minutes feeling like you don't measure up?  Talk about the self-worth nemesis and what a way to start the day! You know that I love IG -- I love the community, the creativity and sharing.  But why was I looking at accounts that made me feel -- quite frankly --terrible about myself?

You (read "I") need to stick to what up-lifts and inspires.  You need to stick with people that support, not bring down.  You need to quit that comparison game.  You might not have to forego Pinterest or Instagram altogether-- but realize if following someone or something brings you angst and not appreciation -- it's not right.  Happiness is a decision, self-confidence is a skill that does not necessarily come naturally... both are much more work than they need to be if you are constantly under-valuing yourself and your accomplishments by looking at everyone else's in the spirit of comparison rather than inspiration and motivation.

I have chosen a few great words to symbolize the new year in the past; last year was 'POSSIBLE' and it rocked.  But the all time favorite and best word ever was in 2013 and it was 'COURAGE'... that word got me through a really tough year, three years ago. Interestingly the word has continued in my heart and soul ever since -- maybe in the courage to be happy, to do the right thing, to take that leap of faith. I use that word still frequently and I am guessing I always will.

But then there is now.  Bonjour 2016 ... and finally -- au revoir to the chicken-pox. (For good as now all three of 'les enfants' have had it!) I don't have a word yet, and maybe I won't... but I have lots of ideas and phrases ... good ones I think ... and plans, maybe now the RIGHT ones.  Thanks to that extra week, which despite having to slow down and not get started as I had wanted, was not so bad at all.

 
...  I hope you are excited about this new year and all it has to offer- and thank you for taking the time to share a moment of life at Rabbit Hill -- I sincerely love having you come along.

Happy New Year -- no matter when it starts!

 
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The premiere issue of EVOKE Magazine is here!

 
I am so very thrilled for our friends Morgan and Bill Miller who have created and published a stunning magazine called 'EVOKE'.  Late last summer, Morgan approached me to be a contributor for the first issue which is themed 'Vintage with a French Accent'. 

"The vintage world is brimming with really interesting, talented, passionate people doing things they love: restoring old buildings; decorating modern spaces with vintage elements; reproducing furniture from times past; rescuing and reusing the discarded in creative ways; bringing us containers of vintage finds from other lands; keeping old artisan skills alive; preparing foods in traditional ways. With this in mind, we knew the first issue had to be about all things French. France has defined what romantic vintage means today. We have gathered a wonderful lineup of people and places for this issue, some from France and some from the United States."   ~ Morgan Miller, Managing Editor

Our home at Rabbit Hill  in Normandy is featured in this issue as well as the stunning Chateau de Gudanes, and fabulous Chateau Dumas alongside of wonderful French inspired shops, artisans and even a couple of 'recettes' for classic and slightly (okay not slightly) decadent French deserts.

You don't want to miss the chance to see this gorgeous first issue! The magazine ships worldwide and can also be ordered as an e-magazine.

ORDER YOUR COPY HERE.

ENJOY!

News on the farm ...

As promised ... there is news about the new addition to the farm!  A week ago we welcomed 'Isolde Bowie Lou' to the Rabbit Hill farm family.  Born last November, she is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi from Camembert (yes, like the cheese!) She was named Isolde (we call her Izzie) as it was a good Welsh name and Bowie-Lou from her birth name which is 'Louly'... but calling her just Louly would have been complicated to use based on the many 'L' names we have in our family already--not to mention our Cav. King Charles Spaniel named Louis... (Imagine Lou-eee and Lou-leeee) eek.

Needless to say we are in-love. We (read "I") chose a Corgi because we wanted a smart, responsive (albeit often stubborn) farm dog in a small body.  Did you know that Corgi's are used for herding cattle? ... and ranked in the top five dog breeds for farms? There is a robust spirit in addition to the little legs and huge ears.

So there it is; the newest member of the farm.  Warmly welcomed by 20+ chickens and 3 roosters, 4 goats, 1 black sheep and all of the human, canine and feline family members currently residing at 'La Ferme Rabbit Hill'...

Shop NEWS ...

There are so many things in the works for the shop in the new year.  I have been in constant brainstorming mode as I discover new things here in France that I immediately want to share with you! 

In the next few months look for new 'maison-made' additions to the French Lifestyle Essentials section of the shop.  I will be reworking recipes for the goat-milk soap and adding new skin care must-haves too! ...

This year we will also be expanding 'Rabbit Hill Lavande' to meet the demand for dried bouquets and sachet buds by increasing the size of our little field and adding 30-50 new plants. Last year we focused on fencing to keep the goats away from the lavender and now that we have finally succeeded in giving them a good and secure pasture we think we can chance adding new plants and just dealing with our other lavender predator -- the rabbits!

And as the flea market season picks up again in March I will be growing the Sunday Brocantes Vintage section of the shop to include much more inventory each month as well as the new culinary French Kitchen section... This section is inspired by my love of vintage culinary tools and decor items and I will be searching for both vintage and classic, made in France items. I have already sourced a few essential 'epicerie' (spice store) I am so very excited about this!

But for now -- most importantly PLEASE NOTE the next opening will not be on the first but rather on Sunday the 31st.  The shop will open at 5PM France time which is 8AM PST and 11AM EST.

Hope you to see you on the 31st!


Click HERE for more information about the shop!

Vanilla Honey Poached Pears ...

Although I was smitten by the holiday 'spiced' poached pears I made with red wine this Christmas, I was intrigued with the idea to modify the recipe using white wine and honey. 

The result is a light and fresh pear that shines with subtle spice and abundant fragrance. I love the warm golden color of the pears and make sure you set aside a bay leaf or two (one of the unexpected ingredients) for serving presentation.

Your will need:
4-6 pears, slightly firm
1/2 bottle quality white wine (a Sauvignon or French Chardonnay work well).
2 cups water (If not using wine, increase by 2 more cups)
1/4 cup honey
1 vanilla bean, split open
4 bay leafs
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick


In a deep pot, place all of the ingredients except the pears which you will carefully peel, leaving the stems in tact. 

Let the poaching liquid simmer (not boil) for about 20 minutes before adding the whole pears. 

Cook the pears, turning them to poach evenly for up to one hour or until tender. (This depends on the ripeness of the pear.)

Once done, the pears can be cooled and stored in the poaching liquid in the fridge for about a week.



Serve simply and elegantly with the poaching liquid.  Poached pears are the perfect ending for a heavy meal with just a touch of sweet don't make you feel like you over-indulged.

They also pair well (excuse the pun) with a simple cake or almond biscuit.

But ... For a more decadent presentation, you can serve with vanilla ice cream, with a drizzle of honey or salted caramel.

Rabbit Hill Foodie Workshops 2016

I am really enjoying the process of designing the workshops for this year.  There are so many ideas and I love the feedback I have gotten so far. Beyond recipes for authentic French home cooking, I hope to share ideas on how to make the very most of your cooking experience every day.

I have found that the main emphasis behind my passion for cooking, has been in creating in a space where I love to be -- the kitchen at Rabbit Hill.  That is one of the reasons I decided that the workshops must take place there and not in a rented or commercial kitchen. 

Does your creative kitchen space work for you?  Is it a place in your home that you gravitate to?  If not, what needs to change?

Another focus for the workshops will be how to find the absolute highest quality ingredients and what to look for ... not just here at the markets in France, but how to do this once you are back at home where ever you live ...  because cooking inspiration is ignited by appreciating the ingredients that you are using. 

I love the experience of going to the markets here, but I have to say there are days when shopping for meals becomes tedious and of course we still do go to the large super-markets for many things too.

What are your shopping challenges?  How do you renew inspiration? Do you meal plan or just cook spontaneously?

I can't wait to show you my local markets, my favorite 'epiceries' (spice shops) and the best butcher in town ... and of course I am especially excited to take you to my favorite kitchen supply shops so you can acquire the best tools; a copper pot, a set of spoons, a tart form...  and most personally, to show you how living in France on a little farm in an almost 400 year old house -- changes how I cook.

And that is just the beginning!

You can take a peek at the descriptions for the workshops HERE .  If you already have travel planned in the area, send me a note and I can verify availability.  I hope you can come cook with me at Rabbit Hill.
2016 ...
  • Take time to make really good coffee and then sit down to sip it. SLOWLY.
  • Fill your life with people, images and words that inspire and up-lift you.  Banish the ones that don't.
  • Trust your dream and then live it.
  • Focus on the passions that make you who YOU are, and always be the very best version of yourself.
Start today.
“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.”  - Edmund Lee
Bonne Annee!
Thanks for taking the time to read!  I have decided this new year that the newsletters will be once a month only and not twice a month which makes them slightly longer.  I will also be working on putting small portions (particularly recipes) on the website as an 'archive'... and will hopefully launch a new streamlined and functional page by this spring.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your kindness and support.  I cannot express enough how much I enjoy the friendships and connections that I am able to make while doing and sharing what I love.

M  E R C I.
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