Passport to Fun - France

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You'll remember that I came up with a pretty awesome idea for G's Christmas gift this year.

If you're new here and don't know what I'm talking about, then feel free to wander on over to this post to read all about it.

I'll wait.

For our fifth "trip," we headed off to one of the last countries we visited pre-baby.

I can be a bit of an Anglophile, but G is a devoted Francophile, which means probably half the movies we watch around here tend to be in French.

We also enjoy French food and French music, so this month's journey was a little more "typical fun night" for us than, say, last month's overly-ambitious voyage.

May:  France

Set the Stage

I added the next stamp to G's passport so he'd see where we were going, then left it out where he'd find it the next morning before he went to work:

What to Decorate With

The flag thing seems to be working out pretty well for us.  It's something fairly simple for Gv and I to do together, uses supplies we already have, and still lends an air of the locale.

I also grabbed a photo hanging on the wall and a particularly appropriate coffee table book to add to a front-entry arrangement.

What to Dress Like

There were lots of fun ideas I came up with for this voyage, but I'm only willing to use either clothing we already have or that I have the supplies to easily make.

Neither G nor I have any blue-&-white striped shirts (although we do have red scarves, black pants & black shoes) or actual berets (although you know I was already looking up how to make one out of a paper plate and construction paper!), so that look was out.

Also out was my donning a French Maid or Can-Can costume - or turning ourselves into mimes (again, no striped shirts).

Then I came up with an easy idea, based on one of our favorite books that we read together a few years ago:  the 3 Musketeers!

I decided that pillow cases would make great Musketeer outfits - and it would be so easy to simply cut a "V" out of the seamed end to slip over our heads.

Of course, just a few weeks ago, I filled an entire yard-sized trash bag with extra sheets and pillowcases and then donated them to charity.

G told me I'd regret getting rid of all that good stuff!

But it was okay.  No need to hoard stuff that could help others, just for possible costume materials!

Besides, I figured the pillowcase idea could still work, just without the cutting.  We pinned pillowcases to our shirts, pinned construction-paper fleur-de-lis embellishments to the front of each one, and then we each slipped on a pair of black pants and shoes.

I wrapped our calves with black construction paper to turn our shoes into boots and then we poked craft feathers into whatever big hats we could find and we were all set!

Apparently I was the only one who didn't get the "sad Musketeer face" memo for the photo...

Gv loved that she got to wear her favorite color, I loved that we could make a human French flag (if only I'd managed to squeeze into the proper spot for the photo).

Note that Gv and I also had to have moustaches that matched G:

Super-easy!  Cut out a moustache from black construction paper and glue it to a craft stick.

What to Listen to

I've got plenty of French music on my ipod, so the music was a snap to gather together.

My favorite album is from the music label I talked about here:
 (French Playground).

What to Eat

After making what felt like every dish existing on the entire continent of Africa last month, I decided to take things a little easier this time around.

I went with a couple of our favorite recipes - plus a few that we've had and enjoyed, but that I'd never made before.

We started with a charcuterie platter (comprised of homemade pate, pickles, almonds, jam, bread, a fancy French cheese - and wine, of course): 

Note the fancy wine glass - a mason jar with a handle.  Much more practical than fancy stemware when you're consuming all this on the couch.  We learned this the hard way, incidentally.  Don't look too closely at the undersides of our couch cushions...

Next, we moved on to French Onion Soup with another freshly-baked baguette (from the bread machine), and then had Coq au Vin (from the crock pot!) over a bed of egg noodles for our main course.

We finished it all up with some Creme Brulee (a coconut milk version) and guzzled down plenty of the requisite French wine with every dish.

French Baguette in the Bread Maker

What You Need

1 1/3 cups water (or better yet, use whey!)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon honey

3 Tablespoons rye flour

4 cups whole wheat flour

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

What You Do

1.  Dump everything in your bread machine and select the "dough" cycle.

2.  At the end, punch down the dough and let it rest 5 minutes.

3.  Lightly sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal.

4.  Lightly dust a work surface with flour.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each piece out into a 10-x-6-inch rectangle.

5.  Fold dough in half lengthwise and then do it again.  Pinch the seam closed to form a tight log.

6.  Place the baguettes on the baking sheet, cover, and let rise an hour.

7.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Slash each baguette 4-5 times diagonally on top and then mist or brush with water.

8.  Place baking pan in bottom third of oven, throw 4 ice cubes on the oven bottom to create steam, then immediately close the door and bake for 20-30 minutes.

French Onion Soup

What You Need

2 pounds chopped onions

1 Tablespoon butter (although I just used the bacon grease from the next dish instead)

1/3 cup dry sherry (or red wine)

14 ounces chicken broth

14 ounces beef broth (I just used 28 ounces of chicken broth and it was fine)

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

4 1/2-inch-thick slices crusty bread (use the baguette above)

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

shredded Parmesean for topping

What You Do

1.  Cook the onions in the butter, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until they're a deep, golden brown and very tender.

2.  Add the sherry and cook 20 seconds.

3.  Add all of the broth(s) and thyme and simmer for ten minutes.

4.  Stir in vinegar and then remove from heat.

5.  Toast bread until golden on both sides, then top evenly with cheese and broil until cheese is melted. 

6.  Place one bread/cheese slice in each bowl and then cover with soup.  Sprinkle with Parmesean.

Crock Pot Coq Au Vin

Not the clearest photo, but I had two ravenous creatures screaming to eat - and I just knew there wouldn't be any left to photograph the next day!

What You Need

8 chicken legs

6 slices cooked bacon

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

1 cup sliced carrots

1 sliced onion

6 minced garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 1/2 cups red wine

thyme (a good shake or two)

What You Do

1.  Dump everything in a crock pot and cook for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.

2.  Serve over cooked egg noodles.

Coconut Milk Creme Brulee

What You Need

2 cups coconut milk (use this for best results)

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1/4 cup honey

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup brown sugar

What You Do

1.  Spray six ramekins with cooking spray and place in large lasagna pan (or split between two).

2.  Simmer the coconut milk and vanilla until it just starts to bubble (not boil), then let this sit off the heat for about ten minutes (you just don't want the cream hotter than 165 degrees when you add it to the eggs).

3.  Whisk (or use a mixer) the honey and egg yolks in a separate bowl until light in color and fluffed a bit (this took a good 5 minutes for me - with an electric hand mixer).

4.  Slowly pour the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly (tempering) and then divide evenly into the custard dishes.  Fill the lasagna pans halfway with boiling water.

5.  Bake for 30-50 minutes at 300 degrees (you want the custard to be about 170 degrees when done).

6.  Carefully remove the ramekins and set to cool on wire rack for about an hour, then chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

7.  Top with brown sugar and broil until the sugar melts and bubbles.

What to Do

I thought about going for a bike ride - all wearing yellow shirts, of course - for the Tour de France, but ever since I dragged G along on my 150-mile bike ride for MS one year, he vowed never again to set his bum on a bike seat again.

So, we headed outside for a game of Boules:

Shhhh, this is really our Bocce ball set, but it's the same game, so it's okay.

We also made an Eiffel Tower out of drinking straws:

First, Gv drew the Eiffel Tower onto a sheet of construction paper.

Then, she cut up some straws and we glued them down over the drawing to make the tower.

What to Watch

Oh, jeepers.  This was a hard one to narrow down.

Some of our absolute favorite movies happen to be French (The Valet, Paris, Je T'aime, He Loves Me...He Loves Me Not, The Dinner Game, Intouchables, The Artist, The Triplets of Belleville, The Young Girls of RochefortAmelie and A Town Called Panic, to name just a few), but I didn't want to just cop out and go with one of those.

So I offered up a couple library check-outs that we hadn't gotten to yet (Gay Purr-ee, and That Man From Rio) along with the not-French-but-set-in-France To Catch a Thief (because I'd been wanting to watch that movie by my favorite director for a while, anyway).

We chose Gay Purr-ee first for Gv, then went with That Man From Rio after she went to bed.  I'm sure we'll watch others (even some of our favorites) in the days that follow, as well.

And that wrapped up our fifth "trip" together for the year.  It was another huge success and we can't wait to jet off to someplace new next month!

Travel all over the world, without leaving your living room!  Come back each month to see where we head next.  Can you think of any other ideas to add for a trip to France?  I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

Also, if you don't want to miss a single minute of great tips like this and all the fun around here, be sure to sign up for free updates and then look forward to having each post delivered right to your inbox.

Want more?  Check out some of our other trips:

Italy - India - Africa - Ireland - Switzerland - Canada Greece England Germany Thailand - Russia China - Jamaica Egypt - Mexico - Japan - Brazil Cuba Scotland - Australia - Scandinavia

Love this idea, but want the easy, made-for-you-and-all-you-do-is-print-it version?  Click here to get your own pack and see what inspired me to create this series!

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