house warming at La Vudèle

Welcome to La Vudèle!

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, November 1, we had a lovely housewarming party at our new house. Lots of friends from Entrecasteaux, Aix-en-Provence, Puimoisson and other parts of the Provence came and celebrated with us.

We served organic vegetarian dishes along with organic wine from Correns, and everyone contributed to the buffet with a dish - the true spirit of 'Organic Living in the Provence'.

A bientot,
Claudia & Jim


Some food for thought

Life Explained...
A boat docked in a tiny Mexican fishing village. A tourist complimented the local fishermen on the quality of their fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
"Not very long." they answered in unison.
"Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?"
The fishermen explained that their small catches were sufficient to meet their needs and those of their families.

"But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"We sleep late, fish a little, play with our children, and take siestas with our wives. In the evenings, we go into the village to see our friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. We have a full life."
The tourist interrupted: "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you!
You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?"
"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one
and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man,
you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.
You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles , or even New York City ! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."
"How long would that take?"
"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years." replied the tourist.
"And after that?"
"Afterwards? Well my friend, that's when it gets really interesting, " answered the tourist, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"
"Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the fishermen.
"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends." And the moral of this story is:
........ Know where you're going in life. You may already be there!!


for a natural house: cleaning

Keep out the toxins - naturally

The time has cometh... andwe get to move into our own house! This is an old farmhouse in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04) and has been home to various tenants over the last 100 or so years. Originally a sheep barn this is where the kitchen is nowadays. Yesterday we discovered next door in the 'grange' the horse barn, still with the feeding trough and hay rack in place! So this is an old structure, entirely built in stone, but over the years many things have been added, most likely not with the types of materials we would have chosen.

So it is up to us to make improvements and do what we can to make our lives in this wonderful home as pleasant for us as possible.

That is why we use all-natural cleaning products, with ingredients straight out of the kitchen cupboard. To give your home a pleasant scent at the same time simply add lavender or teatree essential oil.

windows: Previously we had tried using vinegar and water only but that always left the windows a bit dull and streaky. I then read about the reason: it is the waxy residue from commercial (aka blue colored) window cleaners! So the first cleaning cycle should include liquid soap, to get rid of that waxy residue: 2 parts water, 1/4 part vinegar, up to 1/2 part liquid soap.
For the second and following cleaning cycles, simply omit the liquid soap or use this recipe: 1 part vinegar, 1 part lemon juice and 1/2 part water. Simply use a spray bottle for this and afterwards use newspaper to wipe windows and mirrors dry. Voilá, it works!

bath tub: We inherited an acrylic bathtub in 'English rose' color with a bit of soapy residue and limescale, courtesy of the previous owner. What works really well is baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) : mix baking soda and water until you get a frosting-like substance, then scour the bathtub with it.

fixtures: Put rubbing alcohol on a cloth and leave to evaporate, do not rinse!

tiles: Use 1 part vinegar to 4 parts warm water and wipe onto tiles. For the grout use vinegar straight up and scrub with an old tooth brush or put in a spray bottle and wipe tiles after 2 minutes.

toilet: Pour vinegar into the toilet bowl. Leave for 30 minutes then take a toilet brush, dip into the toilet to wet and some baking soda onto the brush. Scour the inside of the toilet with the brush repeating the sprinkle procedure until the baking soda is gone…..voila, clean toilet!

Mind you: doing all these chores under the Provencal sun makes it a lot of fun!

Jim & Claudia


life on a farm - WWOFing in the Drome Provencal

How to spend a week in the hot Provence summer
WWOOFing on a goats farm

The second week of August - a very hot time of year in the Var - we set off to the Drome Provencal, somewhere one hour's drive from the nearest exit of the autoroute (Loriol), in search for cooler temperatures and an interesting experience of helping out at a farm. Through WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) we had come across a small biological farm which produces its own vegetables and goats cheese! La Ferme du Pescher is nestled in the middle of a long valley, a 5 km drive on a forest road.

We were welcomed by Florence, who along with her husband Olivier (Olaf), are the founders of this assocation, which includes Florence as the cheese maker, Olaf the goat farmer, Olivier and Dany, the vegetable farmers and Nicolas, the future chicken farmer.


So we spent a week helping the different agriculteurs with their daily chores: gathering tomatoes, courgettes, green peppers, cantaloupes (yummy!), carrots and whatever was in season, to be sold at markets or at a small co-op store near Montelimar.

Jim helped out at the fromagerie and after 3 days was given the full responsibility, to make the cheeses in the morning and turn in the evening, so that they would be ready the following day.

Claudia worked every morning with one of the two vegetable farmers in gathering food for the various outlets, like farmer's market or shop.

The way it works is that we got free lodging in a big caravan, away from the other guests who pay to stay in yurtes, tipis or chalets; we also got free food which meant that we would go off with our little basket and search the fields for ingredients for delicious meals, fresh from the garden! What a delight, to be able to make ratatouille the way it was intended to be. A green salad with tomatoes, garlic and onions, straight from Mother Earth. To eat goats cheese fresh from the fromagerie.

It was a wonderful experience, to be able to help on such a small farm, to be included in the daily life and find out about people's motivation to live such a life style: away from the stress of most people's everyday lifes, to live by the moon calendar as much as possible and treat the world kindly, to learn from the experiences of others and to meet people who are willing to share them with you.

Back in the Provence we look back onto this week with a smile on our face!

Claudia & Jim


RECIPES - ratatouille

La Ratatouille - quintessentially Provençal

Ratatouille is as Provençal as lavender and its blue sky above. It simply combines all the delicious vegetables which are ripe in the summer, allowing for the full flavor to develop by letting it simmer for almost two hours. Best served in the pot, along with some fresh country bread: in Provence bread is eaten along the main course and to soak up the sauce on the plate.
serves 4 - 6

Use a heavy cast-iron pot like Le Creusset, with fitting lid to trap the vapor during cooking

500g potatoes
5 medium-sized carrots
1 red or yellow large onion
2 large courgettes
200g string beans
3 medium-sized or 5 small tomatoes, ripe and juicy
4 cloves of garlic
5 sprigs of thyme or 1 full teaspoon dried
fresh bread or baguette  or lightly toasted in a pan

Fry onions and garlic first, then add all vegetables chopped in bite-sized pieces and layer them according to the list of ingredients above, with the hardest vegetable on the bottom. Add some water if necessary or possibly some white wine. Allow to cook covered on gas mark 2 for 1 hour, then reduce to gas mark 1 for another 45 minutes. Stir only occasionally and very gently.

Serve with fresh bread
and enjoy
 * Bon appétit *


vegetarian hiking in the French Alps

hiking as a vegetarian in the French Alps
Tour de Vieux Chaillol
Parc des Ecrins

On Sunday, July 19 2009, we set off to hike around the beautiful mountain range called Parc des Ecrins. The Tour de Vieux Chaillol is a 5-day round trip which allows for stay-overs at different gites d'etape and refuges. (As for all vegetarians the true challenge in France lies in not getting an omelette at every meal.)

The first place we stayed at, one night before we started our journey, Auberge Les Primeveres in 05260 Saint-Jean-Saint-Nicoals, made for all their guests this delicious local variation of lasagna: oreilles d'âne. This is a true vegetarian dish, and on the side they served local cured ham, for those needing meat. But I never felt ostrasized or singled out as the non-meat eater!

Our first night of the Tour, in Le Casset, we stayed at the Gite d'Etape where we ate delicious sorrel soup (oseille in French), made from fresh leaves from the area! What an epicurean delight! The salad came after the main course (omelette for me...) which was simply lettuce from the garden! Lettuce aids digestion so it is actually recommended to eat it after the meal.

At the Refuge de Vallonpierre care is taken in reducing one's carbon footprint, eating what is in season and grows around us and taking everything we packed out back into the valley.

The following night we managed to score a proper bed in a double bedroom at the Auberge des Ecrins a funky modern hotel/restaurant in a small village. Superb local food: fromage chevre from the neighboring village, home-made tourtons (little ravioli), a side dish of carrots soufflé, with freshly grated carrots - ahh!

At our last night, at Gite Les Paris, I actually received a specially made vegetarian dish, all to myself: a leeks gratin! Very delicious and very rewarding after 5 days of steady and strong hiking in this beautiful part of the Alps!

Sunny greetings from the Provence,

Claudia & Jim


bio "vin de table' in Carces!

delicious bio wine from Correns at "L'Oie qui boit" in Carces/Var -
and that's their house wine!

About 2 weeks ago we finally managed to eat at the newly opened, very funky restaurant in Carces (yes, it is the only cool one in Carces), and what a surprise! Their table wine 'vin de pays' is from Correns, and hence, as Correns is the first bio village in France, it is a bio wine!

Only €4.50 for 1/2 liter of the rosé which was very nice, indeed.

"L'oie qui boit"
33 av Georges Clémenceau (main street)
83570 Carces


Their food, although only partially bio, is also very good, the owner is also the chef and used to cook at a fancy restaurant close to the coast.

We will definitely be back for that rosé. Or maybe we will try the white next time...

Sunny greetings from the Provence,

Claudia & Jim


Qi Gong in Manosque, July 2009

!!! This workshop has been cancelled !!!

Jacqueline, one of our yoga and Provence friends, and a vegetarian, is offering a Qi Gong workshop in Villeneuve, Provence, from 19. - 24. July.

Qi Gong Summer Workshop
July 19 - 25, 2009

Enseigné par Pamela Edwards , professeur blingue francais/anglais,
formée a Londres et Paris, en activité depuis des nombreuses années, le Qi Gong sera practiqué a Villeneuve, dans le Luberon.

Le soin Ayurveda / reflexologie seront assurées par Armelle Jacquin, formée par David Frawley.
Restauration BIO possible.

Enseignement Qi Gong
La semaine: 280 €, le cours de 2h: 24 €

Le soin Ayurveda (1h30): 50 €

Reflexologie (35 min): 30 €

Qi Gong: Pamela 01 42 55 72 65 / 06 70 04 59 71 / pam.edwards@free.fr
soins: Armelle 04 92 75 40 34 / jacquin.armelle@voila.fr


A Qi Gong work shop is being organized by

Pam Edwards

English / French speaking teacher, in the old Luberon village of Villeneuve.
Daily classes, or separate sessions, organic food and beautiful surroundings will revive your "Qi", the vital energy.
Holiday visitors are welcome!


Please contact Pam or Armelle, or Jacqueline at "Yoga Retreats" directly for more information.

!!! This workshop has been cancelled !!!

Namaste and
sunny greetings from the Provence,
Claudia & Jim


spring gardening in the Provence

It is the end of April, and everybody is waiting for summer to arrive. Nature decided to skip spring altogether, it seems: rain, rain, rain! This has caused all kinds of green plants to grow in Jim's garden so that we needed to get busy and clear the area of some unwanted ones. Yes, there is no such thing as 'mauvaise herbe', the famous weeds. But nevertheless we decided to rid the garden of some which didn't need to be there.

In searching for gardening gloves I came across the usual ones, full calf leather, with all kinds of qualities any gardener could want: long-lasting, washable, stretchable. But what about finding some that don't use leather?

Inspired by my internet search for something natural, I even came across hemp gloves. But where to find them?

In my quick search in Aix-en-Provence I discovered a very pretty pair of slim gloves, ideal for weeding, at Bricorama! Made from an elastic material, they are ideal for the small plants and didn't involve the slaughtering of any animals!

So if you are going to do some gardening this spring, please consider the animals!

As you can see there is no need for chemicals when gentle human hands can have the same effect!

All the best from the
(sometimes) sunny Provence,
Claudia & Jim


yoga weekend June 2009 Hautes-Alpes

A special weekend filled with fresh alpine air, dynamic yoga sessions to suit every level, pilates and wonderful local food. This is what Elise Maes, our fantastic yoga instructor in Aix, is offering to anyone interested in a relaxing time away.

There is a choice between 2 or 3 days but the 3 day-deal is the best one, as it allows for 2 complete days of relaxation before driving home again the afternoon of the third day.

For more information please check this

If you want to sign up, please contact Elise at elise@aixyoga.com before May 15, although an earlier date is recommended as to ensure enough rooms at the lodge.

And if you want to practice yoga in Aix with Elise or Maryvonne click here http://www.aixyoga.com/

Sunny greetings from the sunny Provence
Claudia & Jim


* * * Jim's meat-free birthday 2009 * * *

The weather was perfect on this Saturday afternoon in the middle of March!

Friends from Aix-en-Provence and around the Var came to celebrate Jim's birthday on this beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. Various nationalities were present (Dutch, German, French, English, Scottish), enjoying the delicious vegetarian dishes. Amongst the guests were 9 children who happily played in the garden and were kept content with home-popped popcorn.

The dishes we made were (recipes below):
- spinach-artichoke dip
- Moussaka (potato and feta cheese gratin)
- carrot & date bread
- Hungarian mushroom soup
- banana nut bread

links to recipes we used for this meal
Spinach artichoke dip
Banana nut bread
potato feta cheese gratin
couscous salad
Hungarian mushroom soup

Sunny greetings from the Provence,
Claudia & Jim


meat-free day March 14th 2009

Official opening of the outdoor season

Saturday, March 14, 2009
83670 Entrecasteaux (Var)

@ Jim's place

It's the time of year again: we are gearing up for the outdoor season in the Provence! To celebrate in style we are arranging a party for everyone who wants to join us. It is also Jim's birthday on the 13th, the day before, so he will be wearing his party hat. Come and bring your friends, we will be there all afternoon!

As it is also meat-free day (Journee Sans Viande) we will have lots of delicious meals and snack, all accompanied by the local rosé, le cave de L'Amiral. And if you would like to contribute to the cause feel free to drop a contribution into 'the hat'; we will forward it to the meat-free organization.

Sunny greetings from the Provence,

Claudia & Jim


Amsterdam, Ankara Restaurant, downtown

On February 15 we went to this gem of a restaurant, Ankara Restaurant, near the Centraal train station in Amsterdam. After a quick glance at the menu we decided to try it as there were many vegetarian options, especially as starters.

We had a mezze platter with
- very delicious hummus (humuz), mashed chick peas with sesame oil, herbs and olive oil
- Cacik, a yogurt dip with cucumber, dill and garlic - very refreshing
- eggplant with tomato and yogurt (Patlican tava)

Then a mixed salad as main course for me, which was nicely arranged, no dressing and very fresh! Jim had xxxxxxxx
Accompanied by a very delicious white Bordeaux ( a true find for us, as we are only familiar with red Bordeaux) - this was the house wine!

Very easy to find, on the main road leading from the Centraal station, opposite the Crowne Plaza hotel.

Restaurant Ankara
Nieuwezijds voorburgwal 16, Amsterdam
tel: +31 (0) 20 - 6236110

As for vegetarians we feel that Turkish cuisine, and especially at this restaurant, is a true delight!

Restaurants in Aix-en-Provence with vegetarian menus

Restaurants in Aix-en-Provence
with vegetarian menus
* La Boca Loca, Rue de la Couronne
* Le Petit Resto,
Place des Tanneurs
* The Provence Shop, 22 Rue Victor Leydet

La Boca Loca Mexican take-out

Vegetarian burritos in Aix-en-Provence!
This little take-out place near La Rotonde has fantastic burritos, tacos, quesadillas, etc., with vegetarian ones on the menu! Everything is made fresh and in front of you so it's easy to ask for changes.

On Rue de la Couronne, at the corner of Rue des Bernardines, La Boca Loca offers delicious Mexican food. Quiero un burrito, por favor!

Le Petit Resto, Place des Tanneurs Formerly "La Cantine Végétarienne" this small lunch place serves delicious vegetarian and some vegan buffet fare or meals

The Provence Shop, 22 Rue Victor Leydet
A charming modern bistro/restaurant owned and run by a very international husband-and-wife team. Try their vegetarian chickpea burger an real hand-cut fries.

Happy eating at these restaurants. If you are going to try it we would appreciate a comment on this blog.

Claudia and Jim, happy in Provence


The Honest Restaurant Guide (THRG) - our guiding principles

What we are aiming to do and accomplish with The Honest Restaurant Guide (THRG)

In our personal search for organic and vegetarian food in the Provence we will source restaurants, shops, etc. which offer such things. Here are our guidelines for restaurants:

1) Vegetarian and meat/fish (for couples like us where one eats meat)
2) Bio/organic sourced locally. (stores - ferme produce – producers)

Ways to act:

1) look for restaurant beforehand, ie. make list

2) at restaurant: check for vegetarian options

3) take photo, of restaurant and of the meals

4) ask for origin of produce

5) look at presentation, preparation, cleanliness of dishes etc and establishment

6) blog: format

7) write letter to restaurant mentioning blog

8, give restaurant to comment via email or letter

9, add feedback to blog

In our research for restaurants (without weighing any judgment) we came up with the following list:

St Julien le Montaignier

La machoto (sur reservation), cater for vegetarians


La Fontaine d’ampus



La Roche Aiguille


Les Arcs

Le Bacchus Gourmand




Le Provencal



Le pont d’or

La Cigale

Le Resto

Des trios Fontaines


La Guinguette du Lac

La Cabro d’or

Le Pressoir

L’oie qui boit - please refer to our June 3 entry: bio 'vin de pays'


La table de la Fontaine

La Terrasse

Le Clos des Vignes

Les tyrois Marches

Du Cours


Chez Jean Paul

La vieille bastide

La Fleur de Thym

La salle a manger (Dutch owner)

Le Cigalon


Fox Amphoux

Auberge du vieux Fox

Chez Jean

We will keep you posted on our visits to these and other establishments.

Sunny greetings from the Provence,

Claudia & Jim


welcome to "organic living in the Provence"

This space was created with the idea to set up a place for all things and ideas organic in the beautiful Provence (food, restaurants, life style, etc). It all started on a Sunday afternoon in January, with the idea to test the restaurants in the area around Entrecasteaux (Var/83) for their organic and - most importantly - vegetarian dishes. So watch this space as we continue on our epicurean tour of the area, recommending restaurants, stores, etc.

The intention of this blog is non-commercial, non-profitable and 100% enjoyment. Completely biased by our own tastes, of course.

Our first recommendation is going to be a restaurant in Cotignac which we visited during a power outage in Entrecasteaux (8km away). We remember it being rather creative with its vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices so we will be back there soon to give you all an update and the low-down on the dishes.

Sunny greetings from the Provence,

Claudia & Jim