Archive for August, 2008

Fruitcake kitten

Posted in Cats, Home improvement at 12:49

Caught them!

What with Kanoko’s kittenish penchant for pouncing on my toes at 4am and dashing around the apartment, another scratching post seemed to be in order. Luckily I found a fun one on sale, that’s designed like a pineapple. I hoped Kanoko would like it. At first he only went in the hole, but a bit later he’d hopped up top. Then he realized that the balls made tantalizing sounds when they were batted, and that he could propulse himself in circles around the post while swatting!

This photo is my favorite of the bunch, for Kanoko’s eminently feline expression. Plus you can see how enormous his (adorable) paws are, and the cute ear tufts.

Three months old

Posted in Gardening at 13:47


Today is about when Kanoko turns three months old. I took an hour to attempt photographing him outside — as those familiar with kittens know, they have two states: hyperactive and asleep. I somehow managed to get three good pictures of him though: the one shown here (which can be compared to a photo taken three weeks ago), a shot of him on his scratching post where you can see how his whiskers are growing out, and a photo where Kanoko shows off his muscles. He’s pretty good about climbing less often, and he does come down on his own when I say “descends !” (“get down!”), but… he’s a kitten.

It’s clearer now that he’s not a full-bred Maine Coon since he doesn’t have the tell-tale tufts of fur between his toes, plus he has an undershot chin. (Not that the standard matters to me personally — he’s a beautiful and adorable cat.) He certainly has a lot of Maine Coon in him anyway: his gradual-length coat, very full tail and tufted ears are really characteristic. It’s merely a question of curiosity, to have an idea of what to expect in terms of his future size and personality. Considering how his paws still seem to be growing faster than the rest of him, he’s probably going to be a big one!

I am still gardening too. My tillandsia (air plants) are doing well, with one of the ionantha rubra now growing a baby plant. No lemons have ripened yet — they do take a while, and the main crop will probably be in winter. I’ll start watering my cyclamen again soon, as it’s the time of year when they start to come out of their summer hibernation period. I’m looking forward to their beautiful colors.

Aller au marché

Posted in La France, Nice at 14:12

From the market today

As mentioned yesterday, most everything is closed on Sundays in France. Open-air markets, however, are open! Nice’s best-known market is Cours Saleya, while the other major market is le marché de la Libération, on Malausséna and with an indoors part in the Docks de la Riviera. Libération is my favorite for fruit, vegetables, beef, poultry and fish.

A new opportunity for fruit and vegetables in Sophia Antipolis is called fruits et légumes du producteur, where a local producer will offer what’s in season (naturally) to various offices. Here in France many companies have un comité d’entreprise, CE, workers’ council, that in addition to helping employees, offers such things as activities and discounts, and can organize for the fruits and vegetables. At the office where I work currently, for instance, each Thursday orders are delivered and a new list is made available from which to order. The CE centralizes the orders, which are given to the producer each Tuesday afternoon for the Thursday delivery. It’s a great way to encourage local business, the fruit and vegetables taste wonderful, and due to the organization, it’s cheap!

Pictured above, the potatoes and tomatoes are from the local producer. Everything else is from Libération. With them I made a vegetable mix that I put in the freezer and use all week, sautéeing them in olive oil to go along with freshly-cooked jasmine rice every evening for dinner. Simple and tasty! The utterly delicious tomatoes (not all are shown in the photo) became a pasta sauce that I put on a five-day batch of pasta (gluten-free, since I’m gluten intolerant): voilà, lunches for the week. Granted, there’s not a lot of variation in what I eat on weekdays, but this is how you compromise with long working hours and a difficult food intolerance.

My pasta sauce is super-basic; what makes it wonderful are excellent tomatoes, good olive oil and tasty garlic. I use a purple garlic that has such a smooth taste that I’ve been known to eat cloves plain… shhh, don’t tell anyone.
– 1kg (2lbs) tomatoes, diced (raw and with their peels!)
– 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
– 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
– 4-6 tbsp olive oil
– Grey sea salt (natural and unrefined — I was blown away by how much better it tastes than refined white sea salt)
– Your choice of herbs to taste (I use herbes de Provence and fresh basil leaves from my garden)

In a pot big enough to hold the tomatoes, caramelize the onions in the olive oil by cooking and stirring occasionally on medium heat for 5-10 minutes (they should not burn, but soften and give off a sweet scent). Add garlic and stir, cooking for another few minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a slow boil, stirring gently. Salt to taste (I use 1tsp grey sea salt), add herbs to taste, except if using basil — do not add basil while boiling. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I cook the pasta during this time.) Remove from heat — if using fresh basil, add now.

Terrace in August

Posted in Gardening, Home improvement, La France, Nice at 13:17

Terrace in August

First thing this morning, I went and bought some more fine wire to cover the terrace’s remaining hand-sized holes and prevent my inner courtyard neighbor (her part is to the left in this photo) from carrying out her threats to poison my kitten. The entire terrace is now enclosed with wire that has 1cm squares, so unless she takes wire cutters to it, Kanoko (kitty) is much safer now. It’s a huge relief.

In France, the vast majority of stores are only open from 9 or 10am to noon, then from 2pm to 6 or 7pm, and from Mondays to Saturdays. Chain stores generally stay open at lunch time. Almost no stores are open on Sundays (in general it’s best to expect they’re all closed). I’ve come to appreciate it because it’s better for the employees, and it makes you get things done during normal waking hours. The obvious downside is that in an emergency, such as a neighbor threatening to kill your 3-month-old kitten on a Saturday evening after closing time, you have to either take a day off work to go to the store, or wait until the upcoming Saturday to buy what’s needed to keep the neighbor at bay. (I made do until Saturday with leftover wire on a particularly vulnerable part, only letting Kanoko outside after I’d checked the whole perimeter, and then keeping a close eye on him and neighbor-lady. I’m still going to keep a close eye on things.)

I do love the terrace. It’s very quiet and full of light, but stays cool since it faces north. There’s plenty of room for my clothes drying rack too — I photographed the terrace with it on purpose, since lately I’ve heard/read quite a few Americans wondering about alternatives to electric clothes dryers. I’d honestly forgotten how common they are in the US… here in France, and Europe in general, almost no one has an electric dryer. Most everyone uses a clothes rack, which is ecological, free once you’ve paid for the rack (mine cost 18 euros and I’ve had it for two years), and doesn’t damage the fabrics like hot dryers do. No balcony, or rainy weather? Dry clothes indoors, cracking a window open to refresh the air. Racks that fit over bathtubs are quite common here. Cold weather? Ha! When I didn’t have enough room inside, I dried clothes outside on a rack in Finland. Winter temperatures when I was in Helsinki were between -5°C and -15°C (20°F to -10°F). It even got down to -30°C (-25°F) for a week one year. Once they’re folded and put on, the clothes regain suppleness, no matter how concrete-like they may feel from being in the cold. It’s actually kind of fun.

Wook at the pwetty flowah!

Posted in Gardening, Nice at 14:00

Venus Flytrap

For eight years now (since I arrived in Nice), I’ve wanted to visit a little bonsai shop called “Bonsaï Center” nestled in an alley between apartment buildings on Boulevard Cessole. I finally went yesterday. It’s by far the best self-proclaimed bonsai store I’ve ever been in — and there are some good ones on the US West Coast, so that’s saying a lot. They have Japanese and Chinese soils (!), as well as a huge selection of gorgeous pots, true bonsai scissors, and fertilizers, also all from China and Japan. And, of course, bonsai trees.

I couldn’t afford any of the bonsai, and anyway, already have a beautiful maple and my stone pines. (I may train the stone pines into bonsai eventually.) I did like the Venus Flytraps in the greenhouse section, even if I couldn’t quite figure out what they were doing in a bonsai store. Since I’ve always wanted one, have a humid greenhouse-like patio and plenty of bugs for it to eat, I got this plant here. The Carnivorous Plant FAQ is one of the more informative sites I’ve found.

In kitten news, Kanoko is looking more and more like a “cat” now. I think he’s definitely going to be big — just look at this photo I took today, compared to only a week ago. His face is more feline, and he has BIG paws. I’m also happy to see that his whiskers are growing back, though a bit angry too because now it’s clear that whoever abandoned him had cut them right down to the skin on one side (there was no stubble and I actually thought he had fewer whiskers there, but now whiskers are reappearing). He’s a very cheery, well-behaved kitten; it’s wonderful to have him.