Sunday, 26 April 2015

Food, Fun and Frolics

Hello dear Peeps! I hope you have all had a lovely week. The weather here has been good, but sadly I've not relly been able to get out and enjoy it. Last Tuesday my foot started to hurt, for absolutely no reason, from what I could tell. I'd been on my feet quite a bit during the day, cleaning and ironing, but it was abut 5.OO when I became aware that actually the side of my foot was really quite painful.

I had a kiné session on Wednesday morning for my back, but asked Jean Claude to take a look at my foot instead. He didn't think it was tendonitis, but started being very doom-laden and talking about bones that break for no apparent reason, except that they are "fatigued". He is very doom-laden about my feet anyway, saying that, because of some wierd condition I have, I'm likely to find I fall over more and more as I get older because my feet are clenching up and will be too small to hold me up! I'm afraid I can't quite get my head round this, and choose to ignore him.

Anyhoo, while the foot is getting less painful each day, I think it best to rest it, so haven't been outside much to enjoy the sun. I've sat on the balcony two or three times, but as they are doing big works across the road on the car park area, it's rather too dusty and noisy to sit out much.

But Friend Cathy has now arrived and the social life is picking up rapidly. Since she arrived on Tuesday we've all met up for drinks on Wednesday, Cathy, Richard & Mr FD and I went out to a restaurant on Friday, and Cathy came here for a curry yesterday! Of course, the wine consumption has also picked up, so I have to be wary of that.

Yesterday's curry was very good (though I say it myself!) I made onion bhajis to start - I used to miss these terribly, until discovering how easy they are to make!! It's sometimes difficult to find the gram flour but usually Grand Frais have it. I use the River Cottage Veg Every Day recipe - but I would imagine they're all much of a muchness. We had these with cucumber raita and mango chutney, and a carrot-and-lettuce salad. Then it was Hairy Dieters' Lamb Dhansak (scroll down for the Lamb Dhansak recipe) with rice

and Jamie Oliver's garlic-and-herb flatbreads. These are really easy and really delicious - I think they need more than the 1 - 2 minutes each side that the recipe says. Mine had about 4 minutes each side and were beautifully puffed up and soft inside. Delicious!!

We ended the evening eating Dime chocolate and watching the DVD, "Saving Mr Banks". Very enjoyable.

The rest of this week's food is looking like this:
TODAY:  Hairy Dieter Chicken Chasseur WARNING!!! This recipe is designed to feed 40 people - you will need to adjust the quantities! We're having this with celeriac purée and carrots.

MONDAY: Vegetable chilli with tortillas. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the avocados that have been in the fruit bowl for 2 weeks will finally be ripe, as I love sliced avocado on chilli tortillas: however I'm not holding out much hope!

TUESDAY: Roasted ratatouille and baked potatoes. There are lots of recipes for the rat, but basically, I'm going to chop an aubergine, a courgette, two onions and a red pepper into chunks. Then toss them, plus a couple of sliced cloves of garlic and some mushrooms, in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil. Tip into a baking dish and pop into a 180° oven. After about 10 minutes throw in some fresh herbs and 250g cherry tomatoes. Roast for about 30 minutes more, shaking the tin from time to time. Stir before serving.

This is Saint Delia's take on it.

WEDNESDAY: left over lamb dhansak

THURSDAY: Possibly chicken satay (but Mr FD has finished the peaniut butter and we ate the bag of cashews last night) Otherwise chicken breasts in some other guise. Don't know what though!

FRIDAY: Chorizo crust fish - planned for last Friday but not eaten as we were invited out. Fish went in the freezer so we'll have it on Friday.

Work is not very frequent at the moment, so I'm spending time coming up with ideas for the summer school where I'll be working in the summer: I've been there for the last three years, and last year was the most fun I've had there. I'm hoping this year will be even better!

I'm also popping over to the UK to see mum for a couple of days in May. In fact the end of May is going to be very full!
13-15th May - I'm in the UK
20th - friends of Mr FD from uni, that he's not seen for 30 years, are popping in to stay overnight.
23/24th- we are away overnight to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary. We're going to this hotel

to stay and to eat in the restaurant. This is April's menu:

  • Mise en Bouche
  • Boeuf Charolais Mariné aux Epices Douces, Condiment aux Câpres, Lissé Bio de la Ferme de la Tourette, Salade de Pissenlits à l'Huile de Noix (Marinaded beef, with capers and a salad of dandelion leaves)
  • Lotte Cuite au Beurre Mousseux, Consommé de Tourteau au Gingembre et Coriandre Fraîche, Agnolotti au Safran Bio de Cesset Farci à la Chair de Tourteau, Cube de Céleri de Pays (Monkfish, consommé of crab (I worried that this might translate as tortoise!) and some other stuff)
  • Agneau du Bourbonnais en Cuisson Lente, Jus d'Os au Curry,Rattes Confites aux Agrumes et Thym, Artichaut et Champignons Boutons, Marmelade Tendre au Piment (Lamb, with a curry sauce, new potatoes and artichokes)
  • Fromages Frais et Affinés des Terres d’Auvergne (cheese)
  • « Accord n°3 »: Le Citron, la Meringue et le Chocolat Blanc peu Sucré (pudding: lemon, meringue and white chocolate)
It sounds huge, but I'm sure the portions will be well controlled.

It's not a cheap stay, but (a) it's a special anniversary and (b) I've been saving my 2€ coins since Christmas and have the price of the room saved up. With the windfall of finally getting paid from EAL we can afford the meal too.

28th May We're down in Clermont to see Public Service Broadcasting - a group/ band/ popular beat combo who we really like. They take Public service broadcasts, or clips from films, and sample them with their music. Their recent album takes broadcasts about various events during the space programme and weaves them into the music
This one is entitled "Gagarin":

and one of my favourire pieces is "Spitfire" 

30th May We are considering a weekend trip to Nimes to see another singer, Neil Hannon, otherwise known as The Divine Comedy. Mr FD saw him last year with Bert Bacharach, but I was away teaching. I was mighty jealous!! So we're thinking we may well go at the end of May, and stay in a cheap hotel.

So - a busy time ahead. What fun! With Cathy here too, I don't think my feet will touch the ground - I won't have time for working!!

Thank you for your lovely comments about my last post: heirlooms passed through  gebnnerations.
I did forget to mention two important heirlooms, so I'm going to go back to edit the post after I've finished this one.

That's it now, I think, but I did post something over at The Teapot that it might be worth reading. You might need it one day (though I hope not!) 
I finish with a  Space Age Kitty  in homage to PSB "Race for Space"

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Through the Generations...

 I have been thinking a little bit about family heirlooms and what is passed down through the generations. As you will see,  I'm not just thinking about things, but talents and characteristics...  Recently I came across the company  Patience Brewster, an American company which is family run, taking advantage of talents within the generations. If you're not familiar with the name, Patience Brewster specialises in handmade figurines, whimsical ornaments, and stationery. There are some lovely things on the site, designed by the very talented mum, with the business run by the children.

I love the penguin!  Some of the designs are too fairy-twee and whimsical for my tastes, but I do really like the stationery in particular.

 So while thinking about the heirlooms and antiques and family treasures, I came to the conclusion that actually, there's not a great deal in the way of "things" that has been passed through our family. Mum has certain tea services that were her mum's, and her grandmother's before that.

One a little like this:

and another Minton one,  like this...

There is the oak table that Mum said I could have, but I've never quite worked out how to get it from Liverpool to St Just, but hopefully, one day, I'll get it out here.
But there aren't that many "things" that have been passed through the generations.

EDIT: Something Ang said in her comment reminded me that actually I do have three precious heirlooms: two that have been passed to me and one I want to pass on. The first is my wedding ring, which was my Nana's before me. Mum asked me if I would like to have it, as the first of the children to get married (in public, that is! My brother and Linda had got married, but nobody had known about it. They turned up one day and said "By the way, we got married today"...!!) It is a plain gold band, but it is very special. As we don't have children I suppose I should think of passing it on to Rose or Ruth, my brother's girls.

The other precious thing is another ring. This belonged to my (not really) Aunt Cynthia. Mum and Cynthia had been friends since school and they were really close. When Cyn married Pat, they stayed close and Dad and Pat were firm golfing buddies. Pat and Cyn always came on holiday with us and, despite Pat being a terrible tease, they were as loved as any relatives would be. When Cyn died of lung cancer, Pat was distraught, and at the funeral told me to go and choose something from amongst Cyn's belongings. I chose a beautiful, delicate ring. As my camera is out of action at the moment, I tried to find a picture of something similar, but couldn't - it is a small opal, surrounded by a wrought gold heart; two tiny rubies on either side of the heart finish it off. I wear it every day, and whenever I look at it I remember Cynthia and Pat (who committed suicide a few months after Cyn's death, as he couldn't live without her) with both a smile and a tear.

The third is a gold cross. Very plain, very simple. The reason it is so special is that my brother, who is not a Christian, bought it for me in Bethlehem and had it blessed. For me, in fact, the blessing is not the blessing that was said over it, but the blessing that  he - not believing - bothered to have it blessed because he knew it would be special for me. I want to pass this on, probably to one of my God children.

So what else has been passed down from mother to daughter...?

Artistic flair, perhaps? Mum used to do the most beautiful calligraphy - I once found a book that she had designed using a poem by James Elroy Flecker as inspiration. Full of the most amazing callgraphy and art work. It inspired me to take up calligraphy too, and maybe that creative spark has been passed down to me...I certainly love creating things, from zentangle inspired art, to cards, to calligraphy. I don't think I'm as talented as Mum, but it's certainly something I enjoy doing.

I'm not sure Nana was particularly artistic, but my Nana knitted - oh, boy, did she knit!? And crochet. But knitting was definitely her forte - she always knitted us school cardigans and jumpers, as well as other garments. I was often requesting different pullovers, and  I particularly remember a brown-and-yellow striped polo neck, something like this one:
and another in pale blue/navy blue stripes. Maybe that's where my love of pullovers comes from! And I still have the granny stripe blanket that she crocheted for me when I went off to college 33 years ago.
This isn't it...but it could be:

Mind you, looking at the wobbliness of the blankets that I knit for Spanish Stray Cats, I'm not totally sure the knitting gene has been passed on to me! Here is Darcy modelling my blankets:

The only pullover I ever knitted for myself was a fairly comprehensive disaster, ending up so huge, due to who knows what failure on my part to check tension, or something technical like that, that I had to sew about a third of it into the seams!

 I suppose the thing that is the most precious that certainly ties my Nana, my mum and me together is a Christian faith. Nana went to County Road Methodist Church, and brought mum up in the Methodist denomination. Me, my brother and sister would be dropped off at Nana's on Sunday, and we'd be taken along to Sunday School at County Road. I can remember singing "Hear the Pennies Dropping" and "Wide, wide as the Ocean..." and it is from those seeds that my Christian faith grew.

Mum went to Old Roan Methodist Church, and when Nana moved to live with us, that's where we went too. We used to take part in the Scripture Exams every year - I can't really remember what these consisted of, but this certificate looks familiar
(Not mine, taken from this site)

Gradually, through the Gideons, through Christian Union, through the support of the church and my parents, I became a Christian, a faith which I've been able to share with Mum, and which has sustained us both through some difficult times. Although I haven't stayed "true" to my Methodist roots, and have tasted most denominations, from Baptist, through free church, to Anglican and now worshipping at an Episcopalian supported church, I still feel a nugget of Methodism when we sing a particularly erousing Weslyan hymn. "That's from my roots", I think to myself, and say a small prayer of thanksgiving for all those who played a part in my coming to Christ.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Life pootles on...

Hello dear Peeps!

Life continues to pootle by - how is it that we're almost 1/3 through the year already?! - while we don't seem to do anything particularly noteworthy. Still, isn't that part of the pleasure of life: enjoying what you do, even if it's nothing special?

I have been going through odd phases where I get worried and upset about minor things - often things that one can do nothing much about. I find myself getting oddly down. While I'm not a great optimist, I am usually a happy-kind-of-bod, but there have been days when my stomach has been in knots and I've not really known why. I assume this is somehow connected to my "time of life" but it isn't terribly pleasant. 

Yesterday was a good day though. Mr FD was on a cycling tour with the Cycle Club, with a planned stop for lunch in a place called Lavoine, about 30 km from here. Some of the non-cyclists were meeting up for a walk beforehand, so I duly met with two other ladies and we drove to the village where we parked up and strolled for 30 minutes in one direction, turned round and strolled back. They chattered away while I tried to follow their rapid French. It wasn't great weather - a damp, grey drizzle - but still nice to get out.

The cyclists dribbed and drabbed to the restaurant, while I chatted with Sylvie, a friend of ours, who understands my need for a slower conversation! When they had all arrived we were served, first with a kir and snacks, and then with a huge plate of salad, with toasted cheese, ham and hard-boiled egg. This was followed by turkey in mushroom sauce, spaghetti and grilled tomatoes, then a good cheese board, and then tarte tatin with ice cream and crème anglaise. The wine flowed throughout, coffee and eau-de-vie was offered - all for the princely sum of 13€ (£9.50!) 

Of course, if you'd cycled 80 km with another 20 or so to go then it's all good fuel. A leisurely stroll doesn't use up quite so many calories though!! We decided to go for another walk at the nearby Ski Station before we left for home

We only did 2.2 km more but it made us feel a bit less guilty!

Then when I got home, Mr FD had already arrived home after the ride down, and we had been invited to Gilles' house for apèros (Sylvie is Gilles' girlfriend) so we went there to drink our way through a bottle of fizzies. I didn't feel like eating much so I had a cheese sandwich for supper. Mr FD made himself a throw-it-all-in omelette with a couple of rolls. He had used up more energy than me though!

Planned meals for this week:
TODAY: Pork mince ragu with soufflés and green beans
(we're having the Nature ones, not the brochet (pike) flavoured ones!)

MONDAY: Beef, chilli, vegetable & noodle stir fry - planned for last week, but not eaten. I have Straight to Wok chilli noodles that require eating.

TUESDAY: Cod with chorizo crust (a Hairy Dieters recipe) plus vegetables. Mr Fd might have some potatoes with his. But he might not.

WEDNESDAY: Aubergine Bake - but I'll be using some of the ragu sauce from Sunday, instead of chopped tomatoes. I'm guessing we'll be down at Alison's (or up here) drinking apèros as Cathy is arriving this week - huzzah! so this is an easy pop in the oven & forget about it meal.

FRIDAY: Richard is taking us and Cathy out for a meal tonight. We're going to La Murette which is a Belgian restaurant serving delicious Belgian beer and good food too. I will be fasting all day but forgetting about the 500 calorie limit at dinner time!

My work hours are right down at the moment - I've finished my all day Monday lessons, my all-day Tuesday lessons are a bit hit-&-miss at the moment because the people are zipping all over France to various meetings/events, Wednesday is still busy, but Thursday is also thin-on-the-ground with a phone lesson every now and then. With four bank holidays in May (FOUR?!?!) I won't be earning that much. Luckily Mr FD is working very hard and getting paid well, so we won't be in too much difficulty. Also, I had this good news (if it actually happens, that is!) last week which will mean 300€ a month added to the coffers without me doing anything for it. Well, I've already worked for it, but now I will see the results of those labours. Finally.

As always thank you for your lovely comments.
KEZZIE: I'm back!

FRUGAL IN FRANCE - was confused about why I baked carrot cake for my students and why I was coming to the end of my course with them. I explained to her by email that my teaching is not in school (Thank goodness! I did that one year. Once was enough) and that the carrot cake is so we don't have to learn anything in the last lesson!

POMPOM: Here's a lot of owls for you.

I discovered that the French have two words for "owl" - chouette and hibou. I was told that chouettes don't have visible ears, while hiboux do. I don't know if that's true. Any French speakers to verify?

Chouette - no ears to be seen
Hibou - just look at those ears!

Well, I suppose I ought to go and do something productive. I cleaned the fridge today! It is sparkly now.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Recipe and Grovels!

I am so sorry! I am really bad at updating my blog recently. I think I need one of these LOLcats!

 ...because I'm certainly not doing it!

Just to let you into a delicious recipe: 
Serve this tart warm, with a green salad alongside.
serves 6
250 g self-raising flour
125 g butter, cut into small pieces
cold water
1 x 400 g tin duck or goose confit
500 g small whole potatoes, cooked (I used tinned potatoes)
4 eggs
75 ml milk
2 tbsp double cream 
butter for greasing
4 shallots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed, peeled and chopped
a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. To make the pastry, put the flour in a bowl, add the butter, and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Using a round-bladed knife in a cutting motion, combine a couple of tablespoons of cold water with the mix until a pastry ball forms.

2. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and quickly knead until the pastry is even and smooth, then wrap and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. (Or, do what I did and use bought pastry!!)

3. To make the filling, open the tin of confit and remove the meat (save the fat, in the fridge, for roasting potatoes). Discard the skin and then roughly chop the meat. Slice the potatoes. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and cream.

4. Heat the oven to 220°C/gas 7.

5. Lightly butter a 20-25cm pie dish. Roll out the pastry and use it to line the dish.
Add the confit, shallots, garlic, parsley and seasoning to the pie base, then layer the potatoes over the top. Finally, pour the egg mix over.

6. Cook the pie in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature after 30 minutes if the tart is browning too much on top. 
It really is delicious! Though not necessarily very good for the diet, I fear!!
This week's menus (in brief)
TODAY: Cajun chicken, potato wedges, HM coleslaw & waldorf salad
MONDAY: Duck tart and baked beans
TUESDAY (fasting) Vegetable curry
WEDNESDAY: Chilli beef & vegetable stir fry
THURSDAY: Hairy Dieter Swedish meatballs & rice
FRIDAY (fasting): Zesty pork with salad & a bit of rice

Sorry! I need to go and ice a carrot cake which I made to take into my students for their last lessons tomorrow - it was a very good recipe, actually. Here's the link to what is supposed to be a "healthier" carrot cake

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Easter Greetings, Easter Food and - owls?!

I just loved this LOL cats!!!

Life has been rather busy this last week, with my usual Thursday "off" (to catch up on preparing lessons/ iron/blog/ do a tad of housework etc) taken up with a training course on administering the TOIEC test. It was reasonably interesting, with a few freebies thrown in, plus a chance to catch up with colleagues I don't see very often. We also went out for a curry at lunch time. Well...I say a curry. It was chicken in a vaguely spicy sauce, but there was no sense of "curry" about it. Most of us (English)  tried to hide the snorts of derision when the waiter asked if "it was too spicy" for us?! Still, the garlic naan was nice (if a bit thin) and the onion bhaji was tasty (if a bit odd, being onion-ring bhajis) 
LOLOwls has opened up a whole new seam of irrelevant photos!

Next week I will need to get my head around a new timetable - my lessons in Clermont that take up all Monday are finishing, so Monday will become free. My all day lessons on Tuesday will start up again, so Tuesday will no longer be free to prepare. Wednesday stay the same: out all day in Roanne (but for 2 weeks it's school holidays, so I will only be there in the morning). Thursday will involve a couple of phone lessons, and Friday,  which currently has a free morning, will be taken up with a 3 hour lesson in the morning and then teaching/shopping in Roanne in the afternoon. Of course, if Infolangues give me more phone lessons that may all change again!!

Sorry I haven't blogged my menus much recently. I have still been meal planning, but just not blogging. I think I need to tidy out my big larder cupboard again though - it's so messy I don't know what's in it! It doesn't help that Mr FD isn't very good at keeping to a system, so everything just gets lobbed in. 

TODAY: stuffed peppers and jerk chicken drumsticks. The peppers were for yesterday, but I didn't make them as there wasn't time before I went out. So I have peppers to use, plus other bits-and-bobs to stuff them with. Plus two chicken drumsticks. So I bought more chicken to jerkify and then to freeze.

SUNDAY: Souris d'agneau, with roast potatoes, carrots and leek-and-broccoli cheese.

But I'm afraid my souris d'agneau are ready prepared and just need warming through! 
MONDAY: Duck confit tart - good for the soul if not for the waistline!! Served with green salad. Lots of green salad! We may be attacking the courtyard today so we'll need sustenance!

TUESDAY (fasting) Imam biyaldi, chickpea salad, tomato salad.

WEDNESDAY: Beef casserole from the freezer, baked potatoes and vegetables. OR leftover duck tart. Not sure yet.

THURSDAY: Mushroom fajitas. But with rice. I have made these before and they are lush.

FRIDAY: (fasting) Turkey with pesto and mushrooms - basically turkey escalope, sauce made with pesto and mushrooms. As I'm fasting, there'll not be too much of the turkey and pesto but a lot of mushrooms! Mr Fd can have pasta with this. I'll just have veggies.

As always, thank you for your comments. It is always lovely to hear from you.

Some of you (SANDRA & CACHE MIRE) commented on the recipe for plum pudding cake - it was a success, although I cut down on the amount of sugar in it, which may have been a mistake. We've been eating it as a cake, but I may make custard and have it warmed as pudding tonight. 

KEZZIE - the sweet potato and spinach dish worked well, but I think it's better as an accompaniement to something (meat?!) The tomato sauce is necessary too. I had it just with extra veggies on Tuesday, but preferred it with the chicken casserole on Wednesday. 

FRUGAL IN FRANCE - I find 5:2 reasonably easy, now I'm in the swing of things. It's not great, fasting, but it's bearable. As I remind myself, many people survive on less than my fasting day every day of their lives!

I had several comments about my boots - oh they are so comfortable! And I can dance in them!! 

POMPOM - Are the owls to your taste or do you prefer the cats?!

Here is an Easter Bunny Cat for you all
Wishing all my dear readers a Happy and Blessed Easter
If you want to read what I thought of 40 Acts, here's a link to The Teapot (if you need them, there are certainly LOLcats there!)