Hello & Happy New Year! Fruits, Veggies & Frogs!

Happy New Year to all you!  Here in France, wishing friends, neighbours and countrymen a happy new year, or une bonne année is a very big deal.  We don’t generally send out Christmas cards, the custom is  rather to send out des cartes de voeux or greeting cards for the New Year.

A word to the wise : it is considered to be bad luck, and even rude by the staunchier members of society, to wish anyone a happy new year before January 1st.  You’ve been warned.

Etiquette holds that you have until January 31st to wish une bonne année, so I’m still not technically late in wishing you all a fantastic 2012.  My sincere hope for you all is a fulfilling, joyous, rewarding and healthful year.

2011 could be known as “The year of the vegetable patch”.  I first broke ground  in late February, and you could say that other than coming inside to make jams or to can tomatoes, that is where I stayed.  I had a wonderful harvest, and consider myself very lucky to have made it through one of the driest years on the records with such bountiful crops.

In February and March I planted garlic, onions; raspberry and strawberry plants.  After that came the green beans, beets, tomatoes (roma, marmande, and cherry),  various greens, hot peppers, green, yellow and red peppers, cantaloupes, watermelons and pumpkins.

My autumn planting started off well with broccoli and cauliflower, but I made a beginner’s mistake and didn’t scare off the catepillers…who in the course of one evening managed to chew their way into over 50 plants.  I learned my lesson, though.

I made well over my weight in jams and preserves, entirely in thanks to new friends and neighbours who are the most generous I’ve ever known.  We were given or invited to pick: cherries, apricots, pears, nectarines, peaches, Mirabells and other plums, quince, and “jam melons”.

This is a local speciality, something I’d never tasted or seen before.  It looks much like a watermelon on the outside, but inside the fruit is yellow and rather sponge-like.  When my sweet neighbour and garden guru offered me a few melons to make jam with, I thought they were just regular watermelons…and began to panic when I cut into them and thought them to be rotten.  Concerned my gardening guide was a little off her rocker, I looked to the Internet and voila! The southwest treat known as confiture du mélon is a centuries-old tradition.  Relieved that neither my neighbour or the melons were off, I happily made a jam that reminds me of a lighter version of honey.

I want to say that I’ve missed you all terribly, and I sincerely am thankful for your emails and tweets!  One of my resolutions for 2012 is to reconnect with you, as your companionship these past 5 years has been both an inspiration and comfort to me.

How about some cute little frogs before I sign off?

The most beautiful family of frogs lives in one of the rain barrels.  Happy!

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W.I.P. Wednesday – Sewing & Sowing…

Hi kids!  I’ve missed you, really I have, and I’ve been thinking of most of you (well, not you lurkers since I don’t know who you are) whilst playing in my garden.  I think my vegetable plot and garden have become the most cared-for of “works in progress” around the Fish household.  I will share a full-on garden-nerd post soon, but this post is really about getting you caught up on a few crafts I have managed to pull off…a little sewing in between the sowing, if you will…

When last we “W.I.P.”ed together I told you about the cloth napkin I was making for Guppy which was going to double as a doudou.  I’m thrilled to say that it was a success with both Guppy, who loves it and uses it for sadness-free lunches at the school cafeteria, and also with the school’s auxiliary staff who are thankful it’s so easy to recognise and has her name embroidered on it (making noon-time napkin identification much easier for them!).  The pink cotton side is from one of Guppy’s receiving blankets, and the cotton canvas fabric was a gift from a good friend, so lots of great lovey-vibes went into the making of this napkin.

This was my first embroidery project that was to get so much use, and I admit I was a wee bit concerned about it initially.  It’s been washed loads of times so far, however, and has stood the test of abuse just fine.  The only bit that’s been wonky is the, for lack of a better word, “slishy” blue floss I used for the poodle.  I don’t think I’m going to be using this floss for anything in the near future as it just keeps slishing and sliding itself untied and I end up with a few sloppy stitches after the wash, but it seems to be fixed now.

The other project of interest was these little heart pins Guppy and I made for her teachers and the staff at her school :

Guppy picked the colours for the fabric and the embroidery floss, assembled the halves, and I did the stitching.  I found these adorable checked wax-paper bags in my workshop – I wish so much I could remember where they came from because I want more! – and we put a giant heart-shaped vegan sugar cookie with lemon icing and heart sprinkles in each bag, delivered with each heart pin.  They were the perfect fit, and made giving a sugar cookie a little more elegant, really.  I mean, sugar cookies are classy, but that just added a little touch of professionalism to the deal.

Do you have any new W.I.P.s in the works? We would love to see what you’re up to! Snap a shot of your  “in progress” masterpiece and add it to the  W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool. Whatever your works-in-progress, have a crafty week, and don’t forget to see what the other Wipsters are working on.