Saturday, 28 November 2009

Baby weather and curries

Definitely 'Baby weather' - wet and windy.........It is horrible outside..... The wind is howling around the house, bringing the rain with it, it is almost as though the parts of the Atlantic ocean has been picked up and dumped on us!! These westerly winds are the only 'down' about living here... When they blow - boy do they blow. The stand of bamboo in the garden is almost horizontal! It has been like this on and off for the past few days. The river level has come up by about 1.5 metres... The picture shows the river from our kitchen door (neighbours geese) this was taken at the beginning of the week just before it started to rise, if the rain continues then it will be in full flood within a couple of days. It is not just the rain falling into it but the run-off from the fields around. I don't know whether it is gale force winds or not but it certainly feels like. BUT.... we are indoors watching the weather with a wood burning stove warming the house..... soooo cosy, mmmm.

J took our friend to the railway station this afternoon. She is wending her way home via too many countries. I do so hope that her journey is not too traumatic, I most certainly would not like to be travelling in this weather, 'safe journey hun'.

We had some friends round last night for a curry meal. I have been so looking forward to this for ages. We have missed having evenings with other 'grown-ups' (no children involved!) over the past couple of years, so for me it was an absolute treat to be chef in my own kitchen, preparing food for friends.

I had already made a mutton curry and just needed to remember to take that out of the freezer. I also prepared a 'Chicken Tikka Masala', 'Chhole', 'Sag Aloo' and some plain 'Uble Chaval' - I must admit I did cheat on the Chicken and the Chhole dishes. I have found a guy out here in France who does the most amazing curry pastes in packets. The results are the most authentic curries that I have tasted apart from indian restaurants in the UK. There are no artificial colours, flavours and no msg. We do not have curries very often but when we feel 'curry time' is coming round again, we order and the packs arrive within a couple of days... brilliant!

The Chicken dish and Sag Aloo I prepared on Thursday in advance. Chick peas went in to soak Thurs evening and I cooked them Fri morning. Mutton taken out of freezer and the basmati rice was the last to be cooked. Guests arrived just after 8pm. introductions made as the two couples I had invited had not met before and, remember, we had our house guest as well. Apero's served and good conversation started and continued through the meal until after 1 am. Yes, we all had wine with the meal but not copious amounts.... For me, it was a superb evening, I had been so out of practice!! Must do it again in the not too distant future....

Friday, 20 November 2009

Another fine day

And so I awoke feeling very refreshed.... Out of bed by half past eight and raring to go..... unusual for me!
I breakfasted on 'Special K' which my husband thoughtfully bought for me. Is he hinting at something? I wonder.
I thought I would post another picture of Bisto.. this one shows his colour. He has settled in so very well and is beginning to explore further afield.

I went for coffee with some friends yesterday morning, it was very refreshing to sit and catch up and put the world to rights. We were at L's, I hadn't been there in months so I had the opportunity to have a look and see how her renovations were coming on. It was absolutely amazing what had been done. I wish my man would pull his finger out and think about finishing the odds and sods that need doing here. I makes my blood 'simmer' when I see how others are doing and how pro-inactive he is.

So this morning, after the guys (Wwoofer and husband) had gone out to clear and burn rubbish I set to and tackled the kitchen. I must confess that I had been putting the day off but this morning seemed right. The sun was shining and I was in the mood. So all the surfaces were cleared and scrubbed, the 'buffet' which was loaded with 'odds and sods' was stripped off and, again, scrubbed down, the rubbish thrown away and necessary bits put back... Looks good - I wonder how long it will last...

I then tackled our bathroom, we have hard water here and it leaves calcium deposits around the taps and if it is not dealt with quickly then there are problems removing it. The bath, basin and loo are all around 30 years old and are starting to lose their glaze so no amount of scrubbing will bring them up perfectly. I do my best....

It was then coming up to lunchtime and I also had laundry to hang on the line, too much laundry.

I will do more housework tomorrow morning, I have lots of brass to clean, not the best of jobs but someone has to do it! NOT IN THE AFTERNOON!!! I may make some time to do some more work on a painting I have started... hmmm could I get J to cook for me so I won't have to cut my time short? There always seems to be something else for me to do than paint.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Mid November

How time flies, next thing I know it will be Christmas with all its trimmings.

Today the sun shines but it is windy. We have had a few damp days which are really affecting my joints... Age!

Bisto has settled in really well and we are having no more little 'accidents' indoors, thank heavens. Yesterday we took him for his 1st vaccinations. He was brilliant in the car (in his cat carrier) and at our lovely local vet practice he was as good as gold. Our vet checked him over and pronounced him as a very fine cat in good health. He was given his jab , a good 'bombe' for the puces and worming tablets. All in all it was a very good experience for him and he did not complain once. Back again next month for the next jab.... He slept most of the afternoon and evening though! Pixie is still having the occasional 'hissy' fit with him but as they now eat out of the same bowl at the same time it is a good sign that she is beginning to accept him. Another few days methinks and they will be cuddling up together. See Picture above - Pixie who is so very easy to draw..... she is a lovely cat.

Have a Wwoofer with us for a week, he is a young Frenchman who is biding his time before going off to the Alps for the ski-ing season next year. He is helping J clear up all sorts in the grounds. Can't say garden as it is much more than that. There is an area at the back of the group of barns that was used for pigs last year that remained untouched and has now become overgrown. It all needs clearing and the fences taken down and the pig 'house' dismantled. Too much for one person and I just don't have the muscle strength to help J do it. Hopefully it should be cleared over the next few days along with some other bigger 'things' that need doing.

I would rather see my small new garden being started but no - once again that has been put on a back burner. I can't see me getting to enjoy it until next year now. The story of my life.......

Our friend has taken herself of to London to sort out her 'paperwork' supposed to be done in Paris but no, she has had to go further afield. I think that she is finding this whole trip far too complicated, confusing and frustrating, nothing seems to have been straightforward for her. It is a huge learning curve - a bit like a moebus strip - keep going over the same ground, again and again.. She will be back to join us again at the weekend for some respite (I hope).

I have come to a standstill with the decorating project. Need to get some paint and probably new rollers and brushes. Got to sort out new colours and also get some filler for holes etc.. Also got a problem with some of the original walls that were external and are now internal. Walls between the back end of the house and the front. The back (kitchen, B&B salon, utitlity room) were originally a livestock barn. The main house had one door that went through to the barn and another couple of doors were knocked through. The barn floor was levelled (3 levels) and 'tiled' and a couple of dividers put in. Well, it was only used as a holiday home by the previous owners..

The 'original' walls do not have a damp course, come to that neither do any of the external walls, so there is an amount of damp that seeps up the wall and it all needs to be sealed as the paint is now beginning to come away and leave what they call moissure to grow on the walls. It is like a fluffy mould..... A bit of a nuisance to clean up and to prevent happening. So we will need to pull furniture etc. from the walls, as well as our fingers out, to get started..... I hope to get it all done by the beginning of 2010 - we will see!!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Ages and things.....

Yesterday was my eldest daughters birthday, her 38th birthday........ boy does that make feel old!!

Remembering her as she was at birth, such a sweet dear vulnerable little thing, just 6lb 10oz in weight - don't ask me what that is in kilos as I do not have a clue being brought up 'imperial' not 'metric'.

Her birth was an exhilerating experience, yes there was pain and so much hard work that afterwards when she had arrived all pain and tiredness was forgotten and I just wanted so much to hold this long waited for infant. She was very pink and had light reddish gold hair. Her eyes were screwed up so I did not know their colour. She was plump and smelled delightful... Totally overwhelming!

When she was a couple of hours old and I was back in the ward recovering (boy is it tiring giving birth!!) the midwife came in and said that my dear little girl had a birthmark on her head... Panic set in as you can imagine.. The midwife picked little Vicki up and looked for the mark to show me and eventually it was found. Vicki had so much hair it was well hidden. The birthmark was behind Vickis ear - at least it was not visible, it had to be looked for.

My baby had the bluest of eyes and a very knowing look about her. My husbands aunt Myra took one look at her and said "She's been here before!" I think Myra was right!

And now my no. 1 daughter is almost middle aged and has two delightful children of her own. Her daughter is just like her mother - incredibly so.

Today, in la Belle France, the weather is typical autumn. The trees have shed their leaves and the sky is grey. There is moisture in the air but it is not heavy. Was just going out the door this afternoon for a walk with my friend Doris when the phone rang. It was middle daughter;
"Hi Mum, just a quickie, can you give me some advice?"
"Hi Mel, what's up then?"

"The cat has peed in the boys bedroom and I can't get the smell out, what can I do?"
"Er, what have you tried?"
"Oh, scrubbing it and all sorts but it still smells, you have had cats a long time Mum, what can I do?"
"Try some bicarb, that might work, sprinkle it in the carpet and leave a while then vacuum out" "Look, I am just off out - can I get back to you later - I might email you with a solution."
"Oh, thanks Mum, love you, byeee xx"

So here I am 300 miles away from my children and they still ask me first, not the internet or inlaws... I feel so honoured .

So we took our walk, and very nice it was too.

This morning though J came rushing in with a piece of fungus in his hand. 'Guess what, this is good we can dry it for later use'... Our french neighbour had spotted a big group of Bolet on the outer part of our garden. Perfect for drying. Just strip the 'mousse' from under the cap and dry them. Store in a jar and add to beef stews etc. later on... So we harvested, stripped and are now drying them. What a wonderful world this is.

Yesterday I bottled some quince aperitif, made with red wine, eau de vie, sugar and quince. I have also made a white wine version and am 'macerating' the rose wine version. By the time all this is done there will be 27 bottles of quince aperitif - I have also made a wild plum aperitif as well. Trouble is, we have to wait months before drinking. The longer it is kept the better it is.

Yesterday I opened a cherry aperitif that I made 5 years ago.
I made it with yellow cherries, alcohol and sugar and I had completely forgotten about it - I don't remember the quantities of the ingredients so I don't think I will be able to reproduce it. It was sampled by us ladies - Oh sweet nectar! so drinkable, delicious but not too much at any one time.. Will be delicious over vanilla ice cream. Must try it..

Friday, 13 November 2009


And no I am not talking gravy.....

A few weeks ago, friends of ours adopted a rescue puppy. The poor little chap had been born into the most horrendous circumstances in a flat in the local big town... He was a small emaciated black cross breed - he was named Django by his adopted owners. The most adorable little boy ever. I enquired about how they came to get him and was given the name of an English woman who helps re-house unwanted and stray animals. I got in contact with her...

She got in touch with me around 1st November and said that she knew of a black cocker spaniel needing homing. The dog was around 5 years old. I asked whether he was good with cats as I have one cat (having lost Sunny last month) and do not want a dog that could attack the cat. She replied that she knew of a black kitten needing a new home.... well, I jumped at the opportunity.

So, Saturday 7th November off we went to find this kitten, he was in the Vendee, miles away from where we lived, couldn't believe the distance. Anyway, we arrived at the carers house and met this little chap.... He is not black - he is the darkest chocolate brown with the slightest hint of red in his coat.... amazing colour. And, as a bonus, he is fluffy.... apparently his father is an angora cat!

So we brought the little chap home.. he settled in straight away but Pixie has still got a long way to go before she accepts him.... Talk about 'hissy' fits - she can't stand the sight of him at the moment... time will tell though - we will wait and see.
So we have a new member of the family, he has taken to our family life very well and loves to cuddle up to me. He is getting used to our routine and is using the cat-flap without any problems. He is so adorable.....
We did not know what to call this little chap... suggestions from family were:- Satan (oh no!) Midnight, Twix, After 8, (+ other chocolate bars!) and then the day before yesterday I was still trying to find his name when I suggested Oxo, then Bisto.... Well: my dear husband immediately pounced on the name Bisto..... so Bisto it is.
Welcome to our household Bisto... you are adored..

Thursday, 5 November 2009


Today is the birthday of my 2nd Grandson Alex. He arrived to the sounds of fireworks - for those that do not know, the 5th of November celebrates the demise of Guido Fawkes who wanted to bring down the House of Parliament and those in it during the Gunpowder Plot 1605..... I would suggest that you Google this fact.

So today we took our dear friend from Costa Rica to Poitiers airport so that she could have a short sejour with her mama. She will be back with us in a week. Oh, it is such a change to have good, intelligent and amusing conversation with someone that we love so much. Verbal is much better than email!!

The weather is not too bad for the beginning of November. Sunshine, wind and rain. Typical November weather. We have had a new grate put into our woodburner and it is so very, very good to have heating 'gratuit'. The house is now feeling warm!! We have loads of trees that are regularly 'pruned' back to provide firewood. I hate to have to pay for central heating when it could be for free.

Our daughter moves into her new home in the UK next week. She will find it difficult, me thinks, moving into something smaller than here. Have spoken to Charlotte this week and she loves her new school, so far. She has a new friend Georgia who she is getting on with quite well. Apparently, when she got home from school today she was singing. Now that is a good sign....

I have started on varnishing the new windowsills today. I am so pleased with the work that has been done. I have found a varnish that does not need white spirit to clean up. I am hopeless with these chemicals and prefer easy clean up - water suits me fine. Some of the chemicals upset my sinuses so much so I have to be careful.

I know it sounds bizarre but having these little jobs sorted so I can 'finish' the rooms have made me, I suppose, excited... OK - whatever turns you on!!

I have included a picture of one of the finished windows (well - nearly finished! need to work on the stone and brick surround next....).

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

And 5 weeks later

Didn't realise it was such a long time since I had written anything.... Oh my!

Did I write about Pornic and our visit to the Planet Sauvage ? Oh I don't know but here it is anyway - maybe I will be repeating myself - who cares ! I am getting to the age (I think) where I do repeat myself :)

I had found a camp site with 'chalets' that was right on the coast - it boasted as being the only one in Pornic with a beach. Oh yeah!
The chalet - or static caravan had two bedrooms - they were tiny. I worked out it would have been cheaper for us to have stayed in our apartment and we would have had more room there!!
At least we were somewhere different. We took a walk to find the beach, ho hum - you needed to walk a couple of kilometres to find the beach which was not too special. A very rocky cove with a stretch of sand. There were some very nice properties that were boarded up for the winter and it was only September. Dread to think how much it would cost to buy one of them......
We also took in the Planet Sauvage whilst we were there. It was not exactly cheap but I found it quite interesting. It is a wildlife park and to see Elephants, Giraffes, Camels, Lions and Tigers etc all out in the open was, for me, an experience. I have never done the wildlife parks in the UK only Zoos so this was a treat for me. Unfortunately most of the big cats looked bored out of their skulls! The Elephants looked pretty bored as well.. What I did like was a baby Zebra. I did not realise that their manes were full length at birth. Quite amazing!! Generally though we just slummed around ate and drank. It was a nice break but himself was still in a depressed state. I had hoped that I might generate an interest for him but he seemed on automatic pilot.
Kathy went back to the UK with the children on 13th October. It is very quiet here and the house is strangely empty. J and I are rattling around and not getting on each others nerves. We are having to adjust to being 'us' again. Our last visitors went a couple of days before Kathy left. They loved the apartment. We had the tourist office come to check the apartment out and give it its rating and they gave it 2 stars - I am as pleased as punch. I did not expect two stars!! Now I must get the website updated properly for next years visitors.. As my guy for the Office de Tourisme said "It is ideal for couples who want peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings." The nice thing is I will not have to do early breakfasts!!
We are also getting on with all the small jobs that need to be done. I have had new wooden window sills put in indoors. They look very good and the guy that did them definitely knew his job. Just need to get them varnished and the rooms re-decorated. Our bedroom needs work doing on the walls and we still have doors to be finished at our end of the house. I just want to get it all done this winter then I won't have to worry about it and neither will he. At least being on our own we don't have family interruptions.
I am still picking up pencil and paper and knocking out a few drawings and have some ideas for some paintings as well. I will have time. At the moment I have a house guest, a very dear friend who I haven't seen for absolutely ages. We are having a super time catching up on all and everything. It is so refreshing to have intelligent conversation.