Wednesday, 31 December 2014

..and now it's nearly New Year

Well, there we are. 2014 is coming to a close. It's been a fairly uneventful year for us at the Dormousehold, but generally it's been good. Mr FD has a job - soon, we believe, to become permanent; I have had plenty of work, my 5 weeks in the UK working was a great success, and we have a new addition to the family.

Here is my mum, my brother, my two nieces and my great-neice: Four generations of Hardmans. What a blessing.

We have had reasonable health - save for Mr FD's little hernia problem & a few other bits and bobs, plus my chronic back and foot problems. But all liveable with, thank God. I have settled into church, and been able to preach once or twice, and I've enjoyed some new crafting experiences - zentangle inspired art has really caught my interest, and I have been creating some for people at church:

Both of these have been sold to raise funds - I'm surprised at how much people are willing to pay for something that I love doing!!

Another creative oulet has been creative journalling,which I have been exploring with a group from church. This has been a lovely way to end a Thursday of teaching. Unfortunately I probably won't be teaching in Clermont on Thursdays in the new year so I won't be carrying on...
Here are three of my layouts from that group (I think you can click on the pictures to enlarge them):

Christmas was lovely: I was lucky to receive lots of splendid gifts (here is a lowdown on a couple of the Secret Santa/Christmas Swaps that I took part in)  and, bien sur!, we ate very well, and continue to do so, with a pintarde stuffed with morilles and amagnac for dinner tonight (courtesy of Lidl) with a starter of scallops (again, merci M. Lidl!) and a dessert of chocklit! We may crack open a bottle of fizz, ensuring that we will be a-bed way before the bells of midnight ring out. Friends are coming for a meal tomorrow - starter as yet undecided, but possibly a River Cottage warm salad, followed by wild boar casserole, mash and green beans and Mr FD's pannetone pudding (which he hasn't yet made this year).

We stop feasting after the weekend, and will start 5:2-ing again as well. We need to, I fear, as Mr FD has been unusually inactive, due to his op, and I have been doing my usual impression of a ruptured slug. Whilst I fear to trumpet them abroad, I have made a couple of resolutions that I should try to stick to:
1) More exercise - in addition to my couple of hours dancing, I am going to resolve to do 30 minutes walking at least three times a week. Dark evenings don't help, so when I'm at home a brisk lunchtime walk around the village should be attempted. I'm saying three times a week as that seems doable.
2) More blogging - my tablet died recently, so we have bought a hybrid tablet/computer (I think that's what it's called. I think that's what we (or rather, Mr FD) decided would be best for me) so I won't need to closet myself in my icy study if I want to blog. I should be able to do it more easily from the living room, which means I should be slightly more motivated to blog. I want to try to post something every day, either here or at The Teapot. While I make no promises, I hope this will happen. Though I can't promise that the posts will be worth reading!!!
3) More Acts of Kindness
I'm with Gandalf here. I loved taking part in 40 Acts last Lent, and have carried on with some of the Acts that resonated with me most. I want to try to do more. I may blog about them occasionally but it's not really a blow-my-own-trumpet type of thing.

So, with my good wishes for a joyful, healthy and peaceful 2015 to everyone who follows, comments or just reads this blog, I will leave you with this saying from Julian of Norwich (which I discovered I use on a fairly regular basis in my creative journalling!)


Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas Catch Up.

Hello Dear Readers - if, that is, I have anyone left after a longish break! I am sorry - Real Life rather got in the way. Nothing bad, but just time consuming! I had hoped to have all of Christmas week off, to prepare, and enjoy preparing, for Christmas.

However I ended up teaching for 6 hours on both Monday and Tuesday: Good for the bank balance (when I finally get paid - the company are notoriously slow at paying!) but not so good for preparations! In the end, I decided to forgo some of the planned stuff (Goodbye Christmas cookies! Au revoir cleaning the bathroom!) and just do what I could, without feeling guilty over what wasn't finished. That was the best possible solution. We cleaned as much as we could on Christmas Eve morning- Mr FD doing what he could with his rather slow-to-heal scar - and then in the afternoon, I roasted a ham (bought during a lightning raid on Ikea on Monday evening), visited a friend for a chat, and made mulled wine for friends who visited us later that evening. We didn't go to church, but I'd been to the Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday evening. It is a long way to travel and Mr FD wasn't feeling up to it - he'd been disappointed not to get to the Carol Service due to discomfort. 

Christmas Day was quiet but lovely. We woke lateish, and had a croissant for breakfast. Then we opened a couple of presents and listened to Cerys Matthews retelling of A Child's Christmas in Wales on the radio. I prepped the veggies and then we visited Alison & Gérome for smoked salmon and champagne. After a cuppa on our return, we listened to some more radio, opened some more gifts, knitted and chatted. Foie Gras segued into Beef Wellington with hassleback potatoes, parsnips, carrots and green beans. We watched a bit of TV over cheese and fruit cake and then bed. I felt slightly guilty that I hadn't taken the time to be "religious", but, in a way, in the pleasure from the simple quietness of the day, I felt God was very near.

I received some lovely gifts, including some gorgeous earrings from Mr FD. You can admire them here. MiL also sent me some amber earrings. Lovely! Lovely! Cosy socks, a Namaste star light, some soaps, books, and other goodies made this a lovely Christmas.

I have been lucky enough to receive three "Secret Santas" or swaps this year. I will write a post on them soon. And I will catch up on our food too, but for now I will just wish you a belated happy Christmas, and I truly hope you enjoyed your celebrations as much as I enjoyed mine.

PS: If you wish, you can read my sermon reflecting on the period After Christmas over at The Teapot

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Christmas is coming, the Mouse is getting fat!

Well, not really. I am still fasting (or semi-fasting) two days a week, but I think that after next week I may let that slide for a couple of weeks.

 I have been buying "little extras" for the last couple of weeks, and on Thursday I went to the Irish Shop in Clermont and bought mince pies! Woo-hoo! I know that lots of people make their own, but I'm useless at making pastry, and I find it all a bit of a faff. So Mr Kipling has come (rather expensively!) into our house for Christmas - but I fear he will be devoured sooner than 25th!
I have found a recipe for festive alternative mince pies (sort of mince buns) which I think I will try.
(15 minutes later after I have trawled through the Facebook site where I found the recipe!):
 4oz SR flour, 4oz butter, 4oz golden castor sugar, 2 eggs - 
mix ingredients all together and the add 3 heaped tablespoons of mincemeat. 
Divide into 24 paper cake cases and bake on electric number 5 for 20 minutes. 
Once cool make Orange glaze which is 3/4 tablespoons of icing sugar, grated orange peel and 1-2 teaspoons of the Orange juice to mix it all together and coat tops of the cakes.
We have a Christmas party at Line Dancing next Wednesday, so I think these would be a good thing to make and take. I have a jar of mincemeat from last year, so I'll use that. We have been asked to wear Christmas hats so I have decided to use a straw hat from last summer, with tinsel and Christmas stars on it. I didn't want to buy a cheap and tacky Santa hat, so I thought this would be a festive - and appropriate - alternative. 

I'm also out for lunch with some students on Thursday, so Mr FD will be fending for himself those two evenings (except that I'll cook it and he'll just need to heat it up!) He is recovering well from his operation, although he is still in some discomfort, especially as the staples were removed yesterday. He can do a few things, but mostly he's just moving between the sofa and the computer in the dining room.

I was happy to receive my Christmas Cracker swap from Ellie at Feltabulous on Tuesday. I wasn't going to open it, but she persuaded me to do so! I took lots of photos, but as my friend borrowed my camera-to-computer cable and hasn't returned it yet, I can't transfer them. Suffice to say, I was very happy (earrings! Chocklit! Lovely vintage paper!) and hope she was as happy with the presents I sent her. I can't remember what I sent, but will link to her blog when she posts about it. I did (bien sur!) send a zentangle. I have to do a zentangle today for the Secret Santa at the Christmas lunch on Thursday.
I have also bought a stollen and some Pain de Noel - which is a nutty/fruity loaf which will be delicious toasted with lots of butter!!
In the past weeks, I have purchased a whopping slab of smoked salmon (half price! Now in the freezer), foie gras, luxury nuts and fruit mix, chocolates, florentines, bottles of wine and fizz and crispy things. We're almost set.  It's much easier to spread the shopping over a few weeks - but it's not so easy to resist the temptation of pralines that are sitting there, waving at you! 

We still haven't decided what our main course will be. We are tossing up between duck and beef wellington. I think the beef wellington will win.
with roast potatoes, parsnips, and a green vegetable.

Menus this week are reasonably straightforward:

TODAY: Hairy Dieters' Caribbean Chicken curry

SUNDAY: Hairy Dieters' Pork with apples and cider - basically this recipe but with a rolled shoulder, and no cream! Though I like the idea of cream and as it's not a fast day we may indulge!

MONDAY: Cold pork, chips and ratatouille.

TUESDAY:(fasting)  Bean burgers, and salad

WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY (for Mr FD) Soufflés Lyonnaises with a chorizo/bacon/tomato sauce.
This is a picture of a Lyonnaise soufflé. They are a kind of dumpling-y thing which puffs up when cooked in a sauce - often they are made with minced pike, or chicken, but you can buy them "nature" which is made with just eggs and flour etc. They are nicer than they sound!


FRIDAY: Hairy Dieters' Spaghetti with prawns and courgettes (Not quite but nearly this recipe)

 Thank you again for comments!

TRISH: Colouring books for adults have really taken off here in France - there are loads of them! I bought one myself, but more for the sayings than for the colouring...although I do find it therapeutic. For example, you could buy this...

 ...but I prefer my Zentangling!

SARA-LOUISE: I like ostrich and I have noticed it's taking off at the moment in France...There was a vast array in Carrefour yesterday. I just bought Beef Cheeks however (ready prepared) as Mr FD loves them!

MAGGIE: I think you should try ostrich (and kangaroo) - both are  lower in cholesterol than beef, I believe, and they are a tasty alternative.

KEZZIE - get thee to thy freezer and clear it out!! You never know what you will find!

And this is why we only have Christmas twigs this year:

 (Though even the Christmas twigs have caused rather too much interest!)