Saturday, 30 May 2015

Life is so endlessly delicious.*

(* full quotation: "Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” from Ruth Reichl)

Hello Dear Peeps! I'm back up to 128 Followers again - how exciting! Thank you for joining us for the ride Jan from The Great Escape. Jan is planning her escape from teaching - and not a moment too soon, judging by the tales of her SMT. I started reading another blog where a teacher (only in her second year) was so disillusioned by the state of schools today (or rather, what teachers are being asked told to do and how they are being treated) that she plans to leave at the end of this academic year. It is really sad - but I quite understand: I was in this situation 15 years ago, and, despite our slightly precarious financial situation, I do not regret it one bit. I could not return to mainstream education now. I would not return to mainstream education! 

Sorry, a bit of a rant. Here is a Great Big fat Dormouse Welcome for Jan!

Last week's food seemed to consist of tomatoes and courgettes in various guises - Chicken Provençal, Pasta Bake, roast vegetables with merguez - very nice but a tad same-y. This coming week is slightly more interesting:

TODAY: Hairy Dieters' Beef & Coconut curry with roast spiced cauliflower. This isn't the Hairy Dieters' recipe, but is quite close. This is Jamie Oliver's recipe for the cauliflower. I'm a tad dubious about the cauliflower (as I'm not a great cauli fan) but I'm willing to give it a go with some cauli that we've got lurking in the freezer.

SUNDAY: The aforementioned (in several posts) Duck-breast-and-duck-potatoes. Planned many times but never eaten! Everything is in the freezer, except the green beans, so it is easy to do. Or not do, as the case seems to have been several times!

MONDAY: Pesto cod parcels, potato wedges and asparagus. I haven't got cod, I've got haddock (aiglefin in French) but I guess it will do. I hope it doesn't make the house smell - last week's cod was a bit whiffy.
This is from the Woman magazine 500 Calorie Diet booklet that they sent me, free of charge. It's a really good source for Fasting recipes. Although, with the wedges I'm not fasting today.

TUESDAY: Fasting today. Hairy Dieters' Aubergine Bake - can't find a recipe, but it's basically layers of aubergine and tomato sauce, with mozzarella on top.

WEDNESDAY: We might be at Cathy's for a Film Night (she has a big screen & projector set-up) so we may not be having Chilli Taco Salad Bowls from the Hairy Dieters. Or I may make it up & take all the "fixings" to Cathy's so we can eat it there.

THURSDAY: Veggie Spaghetti - a really easy recipe. I may well roast the peppers though to give more flavour, and I may add a tablespoon of pesto through the pasta.

FRIDAY: Hairy Dieters' Pan Haggerty and baked beans. Mr FD is charged with making this - not too tricky, I have to say, so I think he should manage!!

There's a bit more variety there than last week, I think.

The last couple of days have been good weather...the cats have been enjoying it, but I suspect if it gets much warmer they will start seeking out the cooler places in the house

Yesterday I took some tins of cat food to the local refuge and spent a few minutes stroking a few of the cats there. It is so hard to see the lovely kitties in bare cages. I know the good folk do their best but it's not like the cats have comfort... I may take up knitting again (I usually pause in the summer) to make a few blankies for the refuge here, as well as for Spanish Stray Cats.
Thank you for all your good wishes on our anniversary & comments on the last post about our stay at the Hotel Radio. Lots of drooling over the menu!! 

This LOLCats is especially for Michelle & Rick, celebrating 31 years next month! Go on, find something nice to do - even if it's just spending an unhurried day in each other's company!

I spent part of this morning repotting seedlings of various herbs from a set given to me at Christmas. I didn't want to just abandon the seedlings so I potted lots of them, and put the rest in my wildflower trough. They will either grow or not. I also discovered that several of the bean seeds left in the packet had germinated (I'd left it out in the rain after I'd planted some) - so I have potted those up. So we now have 5 bean plants already growing, plus four more just planted up. Looks like we'll have plenty of beans this summer!

I think a walk is in order this afternoon - probably my favourite (which is quite long) that goes through the woods. I've taken to wearing a pedometer most days (but forgot to put it on this morning) It sort of encourages me to try to do a few more walks, as it shows me how immobile I am on some days. I've not reached 10,000 steps on any day yet, but maybe one day. It's not that easy - even my 1.5 hour walk-through-the-woods only calculates about 7,000 steps.

So I hope you have an endlessly delicious let me know if any of the recipes appeal to you, or if you have tried anything from past links. It's good to know if I've inspired anyone else to eat well! I fear we probably eat too well!!!

You can read aout our trip to hear Public Service Broadcasting over at The Teapot

Monday, 25 May 2015

An anniversary weekend.

Thank you everyone for the good wishes for our anniversary - actually it's today, 25th May, but we went away at the weekend to celebrate.

Mr FD got back from cycling, and after a shower and a quick load of washing we were ready to go. The drive to the hotel was about an hour and we got to the hotel with plenty of time to sample the luxurious shower before dinner. The room was lovely - I should have taken a photo, but I didn't.
However, somebody else did:

and above is the bathroom.

We went to the restaurant at about 7.45 and the meal was (generally) delicious! 

We had an apero to start - Mr FD had an orange juice (still rehydrating after cycling) and I had a kir. This came with a plate of mis-en-bouches - little tasty things. I can't remember how they were described, but one was a little vegetable tart, with a blob of creme fraiche, there was a little verrine of smoked fish-and-fishy-foam, something a bit liver-y which I didn't like, and a little roll of chicken. 
The service was very attentive - our napkins were handed to us, there was a waiter just for bread rolls, there was a sommelier (more on him later!), there was a handing-the-menus-out waiter...etc etc.

So we started with:
Seiche et Quinoa au Citron Yuzu Servis dans un Coffret à l'Encre,
Emulsion Onctueuse au Fenouil
This was squid, served on a bed of quinoa with a little light, crispy pillow of crunchiness, allegedly made of squid ink, with a creamy fennel sauce.  It was very delicious, and very pretty too. I considered taking photos, but we decided that the restaurant was too "refined" for me to be whipping out my camera. However, while this is not our starter, it gives an idea of how lovely the presentation is:

The next course was:

Merlu Sauvage des Côtes Bretonnes Cuit Lentement,
Ail des Ours et Epinards, Asperge Blanche de Marsat, Beurre d'Orange à la Coriandre
Wild hake served with bear garlic (?!) spinach, white asparagus and orange-coriander butter. I have just discovered that "ail des Ours" is in fact wild garlic. This was also very delicious and very beautifully served.

Next came:

Dos de Lapin Rôti, le Jus Clair au Thym,
Petits Pois, Chou Pointu et Jeune Carotte, Condiment Petits Pois à la Moutarde de Charroux
 Rabbit with peas and carrots,  a pea purée and a thyme gravy.
This was our least favourite course - rather a disappointment, if I'm honest. The rabbit was tasty but toothsome, and the peas were quite big and - not exactly tough, but certainly not soft and delicious.

we then had 
 Fromages Frais et Affinés des Terres d’Auvergne
Regional cheeses. I decided to let the waiter choose the cheeses for me, and he gave me a selection which included a very nice goats' cheese, a creamy St Nectaire, a not-so-good Tomme des Montagnes and a smoked cheese. 

Then there was dessert: 
« Accord n°2 »:
Le Chocolat origine Madagascar 64%, le Gingembre et le Rhum Ambré
 We did take a photo of this, but I need to wait for Mr FD to send it to me from his phone. This was because there was a message piped in chocolate around the edge. I wasn't sure I'd like this, as I don't tend to go for chocolate desserts but it was absolutely lovely - fruity, chocolatey and gingery all at the same time. Nom,nom.
Finally we had tea-for-Mr-FD-and-coffee-for-me. And with the coffe/tea came not just after dinner mints but an entire trolley of things to choose from to nibble on!! I was so blown away that we let the young waiter choose for us - there was a selection including macarons, fruit jelly, chocolates, shortbread biscuits, was amazing!

As I said, the service was very attentive, including the Sommelier who poured the wine into our glasses as we emptied them. By chance I found this description of him from The Chepstow Voice:
"The sommelier was about five feet tall, balding, very camp and sort of mewed like a cat. He was charming."That's about right!
He had been very serious all evening - polite, respectful, attentive - but as he came to pour the last wine into my glass I said "No, no, give it to M'sieur," as Mr FD hadn't drunk as much as I. But Mr FD replied "No, have it!" So I agreed (well, it would be rude not to!) And the Sommelier winked at us both and just said "seventy-thirty!" and then smiled. We both fell about laughing as we realised he'd been keeping a bit of a tally on the percentage drunk by us both. I suppose it sounds a bit rude just written like this, but it was the sudden, unexpected "cheekiness" and break in his demeanour that made it fun and not judgmental in any way. And it was probably spot-on too!!

After all this we went for a little stroll outside, to see if we could see the view over Clermont Ferrand, but we couldn't. Never mind. Time for bed!

The next day we had breakfast and then went to Puy de Dome. We hadn't been up since the rack-and-pinion train was put in place a couple of years ago.

Although it was hazy at the top, and the wind was bitingly cold, it was still very pleasant to walk around. It has been very nicely laid out - it isn't wild mountainside any longer, but with the number of visitors per year it couldn't be. The old car park has been grassed over, and wheelchair-friendly paths laid all around the summit. 
which makes it better for people like me who are shaky on their feet! There were paragliders out - with the wind they were going at quite a speed! - and quite a lot of people. We left at 12.00 and the trains going up to the top were standing room only. It's a good idea to get there early, I think!

We tried a couple of restaurants for lunch, but they were either full or didn't have a small menu. However just by chance we found a little pizzeria that was open, and we had a very nice truffade each

Truffade is basically cheese-and-potatoes, served with dried Auvergnate ham and green salad. Not that small! Particularly when followed by a strawberry sundae: cheesecake ice cream, strawberries, mini-meringues, strawberry jelly, strawberry sauce, topped with chantilly cream and Haribo strawberry jelly sweets! We didn't have much tea when we got home!

Mr FD drove us home along one of the cycle routes that he does with the cycle club. Very pretty - but I wouldn't want to do it on a bike!

All in all a gastronomically enjoyable weekend. Good to celebrate! And we were so taken wth the success of the saving 2€ pieces that we're doing it again to give ourselves another treat at the end of the year. Possibly at this place:

It looks lovely too!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Catching up with Old Friends.

Hello dear peeps! I hope the sun is shining on you today! It is shining here in the middle of France, although there is a chilly breeze. It's better than Wednesday when it chucked it down, and Thursday when there was a wind that cut right through you. The sun was out but I was still wearing two fleeces!

We had a good time with Huw and Trish - Mr FD & Huw reminisced about their days at Uni, but we also talked a lot about music, films, life-in-general. We drank a bottle of fizzies, a bttle of white and most of a bottle of red between us, as we had paté (Forestière and Foie Gras) followed by a raclette. Then we had more cheese and a (bought) Tarte Tatin with caramel ice cream. It was all very nice. As they had a bit of leeway, they stayed on Thursday morning, so we did a tour of the area

to the Chateau d'Urfé (image source)

and then to Cervières (image source)

Back for lunch - home made leek and potato soup, bread, cheese, paté, brioche-au-pralines, chocolate biscuits...

and then they clambered on their motor cycle and headed off.

It was a good time.

I was planning on writing a longer post but t'internet is being ultra s-l-o-w this morning so I will catch up with you beauties on Monday. Tonight Mr FD and I are heading to a nice hotel to have a lovely meal and to stay overnight. Celebrating 30 years of marriage. Not bad, eh?

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The difference between men and women (2)

Or, as stated before, the difference between MrFD & me!

We have visitors coming to stay. They have never been before, so we are eager to make a good impression. the house has truly been given a "good bottoming" (and here's a Shout Out for my friend Cathy who came yesterday to help me transform the downstairs salon - and associated "glory hole" - from a dumping ground to an clean, tidy and almost-elegant room again!)

Over the weekend Mr FD tidied his upstairs study. I went up there today to do some copying, and, yes, it is certainly cleaner & tidier. But what made me laugh was the way he had artfully draped a bathmat over a pile of clean-but-not-put-away washing. He hadn't thought to put it away, but rather to hide it with a bath mat!!


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Sads and Happies (and Foods!)

One of my Followers has left me: I don't know who, I don't know why. I'm sorry, Unknown Follower that I did not do enough to amuse/interest/entertain you. Still...
...I'm happy that I still have 127 Followers who comment and read. So thak you for hanging on, those of you who do!

I had a lovely time at my mum's - it was a short stay, but it felt quite long. We arrived in Liverpool on Wednesday afternoon, and left on Friday morning, but it was good to see mum. I got to see mum's next door neighbour who has terminal cancer - although she did look very ill, she was also "at peace" with the situation, and looked well in herself. My sister came up from Birmingham, where she was working, for Thursday night, so we went out to one of my favourite Liverpool eateries, Lunya, for dinner. I didn't take my camera, so no photos.

I thought I'd have to go shopping this weekend, but Mr FD did it. He hadn't planned meals, so the purchasing of ingredients was a bit random, but I think I can manage to throw things together from the freezer & what he bought.

TODAY: Pork stir fry (+ battered prawn balls as a starter)

SUNDAY: Duck breast (freezer) and duck potatoes, plus green salad. (Duck potatoes are from the freezer - a mix of potatoes cooked in duck fat, green beans and more bits of duck)

MONDAY: Pork/tapenade/courgette pasta

TUESDAY: Chorizo crusted cod (this has been planned for several previous meals, but, for one reason or another, has not actually ever been eaten!) with vegetables.

WEDNESDAY: We have people coming for a meal, so we're having foie-gras starter, raclette and either white-chocolate-and-ginger cheesecake or a shop bought dessert. It rather depends on if I have time to put the cheesecake together on Tuesday. I will have to do the shopping for this, as Mr FD didn't get the stuff - however, most of it will be easy to get in the village.

We are really cleaning the house for these folk - Mr FD hasn't seen Huw since Uni days, & hasn't met his wife. I don't think I've ever met them. Eeep. So today Mr FD gave the rather tatty bathroom a good clean, on Monday I'm attacking the downstairs salon (which has become a dumping ground!) with Cathy helping me, and Tuesday will be the first floor main living area.

We still have to train our cats to do this!

THURSDAY: Roast veggies and baked potato.

FRIDAY: Chilli and rice

As usual, thank you thank you, thank you for your comments! It's lovely when you comment.

GILL & GREENPATCHES were intrigued by my link to the A-Z of Me, over at the Teapot. I hope you enjoyed what you found there!
KEZZIE - the pasta wasn't bad. I didn't use turkey mince in the end, but chopped up turkey escalope, but it seemed to work. I don't think it was "wet" enough though.
GILL - we'll see you at 7.00 then!
SANDRA (Thistlecove) - It is a lovely sentiment, isn't it?! After all, they do say weeds are only plants in the wrong place!

Can I ask, please, if you are of a praying bent, could you remember Carol and Jimmy in your prayers. I can't go into details, but I think these two people need your prayers for healing of physical and mental scars. Thank you.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Hey - do you want to know a secret?'s not really a secret...but over at The Teapot there's an A-Z of Me! You can find out a bit more about the enigma they call (suspenseful music...portentous tones...) Fat Dormouse!!!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

May all our weeds be wildflowers

Hello dear Peeps! I hope you are all well! We have sunny weather here today so I'm feeling quite sunny too!

We spent this morning sorting out the courtyard - it's looking good now. Sadly I have lost my lead for joining the camera to the computer so I can't show you any photos, but never mind! A couple of weeks ago Mr FD spent lots of tme and energy putting new log borders around the two flower beds, and decimating trimming the trees, which has opened up the space a lot. He cut the (self seeded) buddlia right back so that our Bleeding Heart can go b-zongo.

Which it has. This isn't ours; it comes courtesy of this site By the time this dies back the buddlia will have grown up again.It's in a rather dry, shaded rocky bed, so I've just thrown a load of seeds (labelled "For dry soil") at the area and I've got my fingers crossed.

Today Mr FD jet washed the courtyard while I planted up all our pots/ old mini-barbecues/ washing up bowls with various petunias, lobellias and lavender plants. The two roses got themselves sorted out a bit and the courtyard looks nice now. I've got a sweet, rather ramshackle café chair out there in a corner too - it's from the balcony, but over the winter one of the nuts-and-bolts rusted up completely and then sheered through, so you can't sit on it. It's a rather nice little feature

                                                        It looks nothing like this though!!!

I also finished off the balcony too. I'd planted a lot of catnip seeds in a planter, thinking it would be nice for the cats, but unfortunately the VBKs took to using it as a handy toilet, so THAT got emptied out. I rescused a few tiny seedlings which are now in a pot, so I hope they'll grow. I've got troughs sowed with a wildflower mix, hanging baskets with fuschias, lobellias and petunias, and lots of trailing geraniums planted up too. I have also planted a couple of troughs of beans, three tomato plants and lots of herbs. If it all thrives everything should look lovely!! Of course, due to the VBKs all the planters have to be protected with pigeon spikes, either to stop the cats using them as handy toilets (saves going inside!) OR eating the baby seedlings. Last year the blooming cats ate all the strawberry plants before any strawberries could reveal themselves - and this year the chives have taken a bit of a chewing!

Not mine - theirs - but I hope mine will look as nice in a few weeks time!

It's not quite the Ice Saints, but as the forecast is for 27° next week, I'm guessing things should be okay! I don't think we'll be getting any more frosts this spring!
Cathy is coming for an apèro (or three!) later to admire our work, so I'll have to get dinner prepared so I can just pop it in the oven. We're having leftover spicy-pork-and-rice layered with aubergine slices and covered in arrabiata sauce, baked for about half-an-hour. Hopefully it will be nice.
I'm away in the UK on Wednesday to Friday - just taking the opportunity of going to Limoges with a friend, from whence there are direct flights to Liverpool. It's mum's birthday on Tuesday, so it will be nice to see her. When I get back I'm preaching on the Sunday, so I'm trying to get my sermon written before I's started quite easily, so I hope this will continue!!
Because of my trip away meals are not very well planned - I've bought a lot of ingredients, so I hope that I'll be able to get some semblance of food from them (!) In fact I can't even remember what I've bought so I can't enlighten you! I do know that we have lamb tagine tomorrow, and a turkey-and-red-pepper pasta sauce planned for when I get back on Friday (which I'll make & freeze on Tuesday, I think!) but apart from that I've got no idea. Sorry!
As always, thank you for your comments - I appreciate you taking the time to write something.
KEZZIE & GILL both commented on the delicious sounding-ness of the recipe in my last post. Let me assure you both that it was delicious! They also both commented on my idiocy over my watch (which, let me say, is no longer running 10 minutes slow!!)
GILL - we eat at about 7.00 - just let me know when you're coming!!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Miam, miam! Yummy recipe.

We went to Cathy's yesterday evening for apèros that lasted all evening! She produced a lovely pizza/tart which I thought I would share with you as a simple but delicious thing to make.

Get some ready roll short crust pastry (or make your own) and roll out thinly. Place on a greased baking tray.
Spread with cream cheese, or soft goats cheese.
Slice a couple of onions, as thin as you can, and sprinkle liberally over the base.
Sprinkle plenty of grated gruyere/emmenthal cheese over that, and then sprinkle chopped walnuts.
Pop in a hot oven for about 10-15 minutes until the pastry base is crisp.
Drizzle with runny honey and serve.

(the base looks too thick and pizza-y, but you get the basic idea!)

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The difference between men and women

...or at least the difference between Mr FD and myself.

My watch  had been running 10 minutes slow for a few days. To remind myself that it was consistently 10 minutes slow I put  little pink sticker on the watch face, so I'd remember to add 10 minutes onto the time it showed.  A simple solution, I thought.

After about three days, Mr FD saw that the sticker was still there.
"Is your watch still running 10 minutes slow?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied.
"Why not just move the hands on 10 minutes then?" 

An even simpler solution!!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Horses (or donkeys!) for Courses!

Yesterday was the Fete du Cheval in St Just - our friends helped to organise it. I forgot to take my camera, so have no photos, but I hope that maybe there will be some on FB later

It is a Good Thing because the whole ethos of the Fete has changed. For the first 5 years it was basically a knacker's market - people would bring their horses who would be tied up in the square outside our house, with no shade nor shelter, and usually it would be the knackers who would take the horses off for slaughter. I would get very upset!

However now it is more a celebration of horsey stuff, as you can see from the poster. Horses are still bought and sold, but not for meat. All sellers must have certificates and stuff, I believe.

Cathy and I met up for pot-au-feu at lunch time. She had been roped in to helping in the kitchen for a while in the morning, so was quite relieved to see me when I arrived for lunch. The queue was enormous, and it took about half an hour to get to the front! There was a huge lump of meat, a carrot, a turnip and three potatoes, all of which had been cooked in a thin broth. The broth was also offered, but I didn't have that. Together with a couple of chunks of bread, a piece of camembert and a slab of tarte-aux-pommes it was good value for 12€. Cathy and I split a bottle of wine between us too - which possibly meant we found the donkey races more hilarious than they actually were! I collected quite a lot of leftover meat for the cats, much to the bemusement of the people sharing the table with us.

The donkey race was quite amusing, whether one had had a tad too much wine-from-various -countries-of- the-European-Union or not.. Most of the young men who had been roped into riding were, to be honest, more than a little worse for drink, and had no idea what they were doing. So when the race started they rushed at their donkeys, spooked them and then spent most of the race running and leaping to try to mount the poor beasts. Of course with all the action going on, the donkeys became friskier, and trotted around the race track. Our friend Jean, however, (who trains horses for a living and used to be a jockey!) approached his donkey slowly, spent a little while petting it, climbed calmly on its back and then walked it around the race track avoiding the bucking and kicking from the other donkeys. At several points he was riding no hands on the reins! Of course, he won, and the guy who came second had obviously learned from Jean, as he had started off running and shouting at his donkey, but having seen how Jean was doing, had calmed down his approach. It didn't make for laughter and ridiculousness, but it was definitely a case of slow-and-steady wins the race!

I love donkeys! I would really like one, but I'm not sure it's fair to keep one in the courtyard!! Mind you, I would also like a llama and a couple of pygmy goats. There's certainly not room in the courtyard for that mengerie!

So yesterday evening, after large amounts of pot au feu I didn't want much to eat. Mr FD fancied a pizza from the van that now comes to St Just on Friday and Saturday nights so we both had one. I ate half mine, and will have the rest for lunch today.

TODAY: Roast chicken, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese (nom-nom), green beans.

MONDAY: Cold chicken, chips and left over veggies

TUESDAY: Vegetables-with-a-bit-of-chicken and pasta

WEDNESDAY: Spicy Pork and rice courtesy of the Hairy Dieters.

I doubt if I'll be dancing again on Wednesday night - my foot is still giving me quite a lot of pain. It's not swollen so I don't think Jean-Claude's pessimistic diagnosis of a spontaneously-broken bone is correct, but I have no idea what it is. I have an appointment with the doctor next Monday (not tomorrow, but next Monday!) so if it's not healed by then I'll certainly mention it. It's annoying as it means that I can't do the two forms of exercise that I quite like - dancing and walking. Especially with Cathy here as we often go for walks together and I'd picked out some we could do.

THURSDAY: Beanburgers (another Hairy Dieter recipe)
To be had WITH salad but WITHOUT the bun.

Of course, these plans may all change, as we have more spontaneous outings (or meals in that change) when Cathy is here! So for example on Friday we all decided to go to the pictures to see "Selma" - I'd seen it, as had Richard, but Cathy and Mr FD hadn't, so we went to Roanne to watch it, and we had a meal out in a very nice little bistro/brasserie. I had a burger, and Mr FD had tartiflette; Cathy a pizza and Richard pasta-with-salmon.

FRIDAY: Not sure yet. As Friday is another Bank Holiday in France (1st, 8th, 14th and 25th are all bank holidays!!) I'll go shopping on Thursday so I'll plan the week's menus on Thursday morning.

well, there had to be an "ass" joke in there somewhere! 

Thank you all for your comments.

Everyone who sent good wishes for my foot - as you have already read it's not much better. Hey-ho.

POMPOM: Yes! 30 years. eep!
TRISH: the Neil Hannon was part of a festival, rather than a concert, so we've decided not to go after all. Glad you like PSB.
KEZZIE: As I said in a reply-comment, Mum's up in Liverpool. We're driving across France to Limoges, as there is a direct flight from there to Liverpool. I'm glad you found out more about the Muguettes!
MARIA: I hope you try some of the recipes too - don't just salivate!
ARIL: Thank you for your good wishes.