To bake or not too bake? – 26 November 2016

I’ve continued my baking challenge, the past two week’s olive fougasse and chocolate brownies. Both were ok but the fougasse needed more flavour, so next time some herbs I think and maybe some cheese. As to the chocolate brownies, I’ve actually made 2 lots.

Yummy - brownies

Yummy – brownies

They were yummy first time round, but I did burn the edges and they sunk in the middle when I got them out of the oven. The 2nd lot didn’t burn but still sunk, after a google search (by Pat) we’ve discovered that I’ve been beating too much air into them! So not as much mixing next time, but I will say this much they still taste superb especially slightly warmed and with a scoop of vanilla icecream (and custard! Pat).

My weeks have been spent working, but my weekends have been much more relaxing. Last weekend I finished another painting – it was very quick and I think the shadow needs some more work on it, but I painted this damsel fly.

Damselfly

Damselfly

Saturday I went off for a coffee with a friend, Pat and I then picked up some lamb from one of my painting class friends and then we went off to a troc in search of a piece of furniture that I hope to turn into our vanity in the bathroom. While we found quite a few that were good they were either too high or too long (or both). While I don’t mind something being a bit high, it just can’t be too long. So more searching is needed.

Sunday was a little more relaxing, with a slow start to the day, but then on to another Christmas type market – this one was a called a gift market. We did buy a few more gifts and I bought some chocolate for myself (well it looked so good) and as we left we did buy a couple of Brownies – I did need to know what to aim for!

The other joy of the week was my first trip to the doctor in France. I was sent off for blood tests, which was actually done here at home, I needed to have a morning test before I had eaten anything so at around 8:30am on Tuesday morning the nurse was at the door ready to take my blood. All very efficient, and I’ve already had the results back (by mail and sent to myself and the doctor). Appointment already set for going back to the doctors to discuss the results but in looking at the results everything seems to be fine.

This weekend is looking busy, this evening Pat and I are off to a dinner and buffet with a new social group we have joined. We already know people in this group so tonight should be fun as we do know people who are going. Tomorrow I plan on finishing the Christmas cards and Pat and I will be putting up the Christmas tree  hopefully with some lights outside (29 days to go!).

So on the Christmas note, I’ll sign off. Various trips for both Pat and I over the next few weeks so no blog next week – but Pat’s blog will be up in two weeks – http://patblog.patbell.co.uk

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Is the world imploding? Or is it just my baking – 12th November 2016

Ok to start with the US election – yes even in my blog – my text to my American friend was along the lines of “WTF, OMG”. Which I think about sums up a lot of people’s thinking. But we will have to wait and see what type of President he will make! I will admit the rise of what I consider nationalism and isolationism in the US and in Europe is a little frightening. For anyone who knows their history it was this combination that led us to two world wars. Ok I do realise that it is more complicated than that, but when one starts thinking (especially a nation) that it is better alone – it is a little worrisome. I think it can be easy to forget that we are a pale blue dot in a vastness of space – this is the only home we have, we need it. And along with that – after watching a fabulous show last night about the black hole at the centre of our galaxy – you realise how tiny our solar system is – not just our planet!

So on that note, on to the more mundane aspects of my life. For those of you who read last week’s blog, you will know that I am trying to bake something new every week. This week I did a breakfast cinnamon loaf. The picture of the left is the one from the recipe book, the one of the right is mine. It went ok, not fantastic, but definitely something that I will try again. This weekend I think it will be the olive fougasse!

picture from book

picture from book

My version

My version

I also finished my painting last week (and started a new one). So below is the final picture.
Not a lot different to the one at the end of week 3 but a little.

finished

finished

This past weekend we also did our first Christmas fete! Yes they have started. In some ways it is good as it means that I can get presents early, but there is still something odd about thinking about Christmas before December. However, when you have things to send to the other side of the world it does help. This weekend I also plan to finish our Christmas cards so we can get them all signed and off in the next week or so.

Pat has had some big news this week but I’ll leave that for his blog next week – http://patblog.patbell.co.uk

Lastly – Happy Birthday Sis, have a fantastic day.

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Autumnal Baking – 29 October 2016

Well autumn has really set in, in our part of rural France. The leaves are all turning vibrant colours and falling and the chestnut harvest is underway. Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year – partly because of the colours and I also think because growing up in Western Australia, we really didn’t get such a dramatic seasonal change. I do enjoy days such as today, which is sunny but cool.

I’ve still been busy with work, and as I mentioned last week, trying to make sure that I do something I love every day. I’ve been out walking with Siena almost every day. We even had an added bonus of 2 children and another dog yesterday. One of our neighbours had her 2 grandchildren with her so they decided to come on our walk with us, Dougie – a wonderful little white dog belonging to our neighbour also came along, both he and Siena loved it. I will admit the young girl (who is learning English at school) spoke a million miles an hour in French and I found it near impossible to keep up, Pat however was able to follow most of the conversation.

I’ve also decided to bake something new each weekend over the next month. I did start early, with baking a chocolate cake – not my normal chocolate cake but a totally different recipe and different icing – it is ok, not the best cake I’ve ever made but since half of it is already gone it can’t be too bad! So at the moment I’m putting my list together of things to make:
Olive Fougasse (if you watched GBBO this year – you will know what this is) – my dad’s birthday card included this recipe so I just have to do this.
I don’t think I’ve ever made chocolate brownies so that is going on the list, open to suggestions of other items…

I’m also back to all French classes – which is good, my one-on-one teacher has moved me up a level to us trying to do the whole class in French, which was interesting. Apparently my pronunciation is getting better – which is good, but I do still find it difficult to hear the differences between certain words. So there is still a long way to go.

Also had my painting class yesterday, below are two photos – one taken last week the other this week. Only a little more to do before this is completed but need to let it dry completely before I finish. Photos were taken on my camera phone so not the best quality but it does show the progression which is good.  Next time – the final picture.

Fish 1 (2nd week)

Fish 1 (2nd week)

Fish 2 - 3rd week

Fish 2 (3rd week)

So, until next time, have a lovely couple of weeks, and don’t forget Pat’s blog next week – http://patblog.patbell.co.uk

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All work, no play – 16 October 2016

Yep that is the story of my past 2 weeks. Work – lots of it. Along with repointing – which is more work. The garden looks like a bomb has hit it, as last week I started cutting back the wisteria, but while I got it cut I’ve not had time to collect all the trimmings together – well let’s be honest I’ve had the time but not the energy. I just feel like I’ve been flat out. I would love more energy – to be able to keep going all week and then all weekend, but the reality is that I just don’t have that level of fitness or stamina now. Getting old I guess?

However, I did take out some time for myself over the last two weeks. One thing I did a couple of weeks ago was to write a list of the things I like doing. Some of the items on my list are below:

Painting / art work
Reading
Walks with Pat and Siena
Laughing
Walks on the beach / being beside the sea
Having a chat with friends over coffee

It was an interesting exercise to do. I did it partly as a reaction to something I read (or heard, I can’t remember now 🙁 ) but also I’ve noticed that as we get busier with doing stuff – the things we love to do are the things we let go of. So my challenge to myself was to see how I can make sure that I do something that I love, at least every day.

One of the obvious ones is going on walk with Pat and Siena (our wonderful little dog). But when I get really busy with work, this is the first thing to go. So even though I have been flat out over the past two weeks, I made sure that I did this every day (one exception). It was great to give myself that break during the day. I also made sure that I get to my art class now that, that has started again. This was the painting I finished last week (started at a day course during the summer – I’m really happy with this).

key

I also got to go for coffee yesterday with one of my class mates (from my Tuesday morning French class) who I haven’t seen over the entire summer. We went into our local town to the café and sat by the open fire and had a really good natter and catch-up – 2 coffee’s each later we decided that we really did need to get home, but we both said that this is something we need to do again as the brief catch-up we have at French class really isn’t enough.

So this week going forward I am going to endeavour to add more things to my life that make my life fun and enjoyable, because as we know all work and no play makes (insert relevent name) a dull person!

Until next time, and don’t forget Pat’s blog next week – http://patblog.patbell.co.uk

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All good things must come to an end – 1st October 2016

Don’t worry it is not my blog that is coming to an end. It’s just that yesterday we put my mum on a train (to the airport) for her return journey to Australia. It is sad to see her go and now we must get back to our work (I’ve had the last week away from work). But the work will include getting back to the re-pointing and a few things in the garden in preparation for Winter.

Monet's Garden

Monet’s Garden

So what did we do with the last week of my mum being here? It started with a trip last weekend to Giverny – yes a return visit to Monet’s gardens, which I will admit was fantastic. The gardens of course had different flowers in bloom and the water lilies were out (our previous trip was in May). The main garden was full of dahlias and sunflowers. I must admit dahlias are some of my favourite flowers and after the success of my 3 plants this year, I’m putting in many more next year. We also got to see a fantastic painting exhibition at the Impressionist Gallery in Giverny by Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla, which I loved.

Mum at Giverny

Mum at Giverny

Mum and I also did a day trip to Limoges and a visit to the Limoges art gallery. We had a look at the old butcher’s quarter and we had lunch at a very interesting little restaurant – which on Saturdays does a French style brunch (or fish and chips!), thought it wasn’t what I was planning or expected it was lovely.

For mum’s last day with us we headed over to the Château de La Rochefoucauld which was a lovely day out. Whilst it was cool, the sun was shining and we enjoyed our wander around the inside and outside of the Château. We then headed off for lunch at a little restaurant at the base of the Château which was also beside the river. This was a lovely way to finish the day.

Mum at the Chateau

Mum at the Chateau

So Friday morning we were up at 6am (I haven’t had to do that for a couple of years now so that was not fun!) we drove mum to the train station for her train and as I type this her flight should be coming in to land in Australia. It will have been a long journey for her.

So on that note I load my blog and look at the sun outside and realise that I really need to get out to get my work done.

You also get a 2 for one this week – as we were away last weekend, you get Pat’s blog today and next week – http://patblog.patbell.co.uk

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100 today – 17th September 2016

Today is my 100th blog post! I can’t believe it. I didn’t think I would keep going with writing my blog but I’m glad I have. Ok it’s not the most well read blog on the internet, but that wasn’t what it was for, this is just me sharing with friends and family who are spread around the world, my goings-on in this rural little part of France.

So what has happened over the past 2 weeks? Mum and aunty Barb came back from Seville – where they had the joy of very, very hot temperatures (in the 40’s some days). But they enjoyed themselves and said that Seville is worth a visit, so that has now been added to the list of places to see. Aunt Barb has now returned to the UK. I’ve been hard at work this week, so we haven’t really done much. Also the rain has started, my garden may be happy with the rain, however when you want to do something outside it’s not the best.

We did get to the flea market in Limoges last Sunday which was fun. Saw lots of things I would love to buy, but not at the price. Yesterday, mum and I were meant to go to an outdoor painting class, but unfortunately this got cancelled. This however did allow mum and I to head off to Brantôme for market day and a look around. However, once we got to lunch, the rain started so we didn’t get to finish our walk around. We did however have a very nice lunch, I was served one of the biggest steaks I’ve seen in a long time!

 

Mum in Brantome

Mum in Brantome

A great sculpture in Brantome

A great sculpture in Brantome

Today again we have rain forecast and I’m not feeling 100% so we are just doing things around the house. We have an afternoon adventure planned for tomorrow and the sun is meant to be back out and shinning next week, which will be great as we can get out and about a bit more.

Remember Pats blog next week – http://patblog.patbell.co.uk

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Yes this blog is late – 5th September 2016

Why? I hear you cry. Well my mum has arrived and we’ve been doing things. However there was a slight rocky start to this journey with a delayed train – the first time this has happened to me in France. The station at Angoulême was totally closed down due to a leak of dangerous material on one of the goods trains (which was at the station) 2 hours 10 minutes later I’m finally off to meet my mum at the airport, thankfully we connected (I literally nearly ran into her) got ourselves off to our hotel for the night and then back home on the train (not delayed) safe and sound the following day. We let mum have the next few days recovering (along with lots of walks) and then as mentioned in Pat’s blog, off to Thiviers for the market and lunch overlooking a chateau.

The following week we headed off to Nontron on my day off. We have driven past Nontron a couple of times but never stopped. As Pat mentioned – I wanted to visit a bra shop that had been recommended to me, unfortunately it has closed down and only sells via the internet now (this is very unusual for France), we did get the material shop, so that I now have some material for covering my sofa in the kitchen. However we did have a nice lunch in a lovely square, but don’t think we will worry too much about returning to the town as there wasn’t that much to see.

Thursday, aunty B arrived from the UK and Friday after I finished work we all headed off to Bordeaux. I’ll admit it has been a while since I’ve been in a large city and I’ve forgotten how exhausting it can be. But we had a fantastic time, walking around, and looking at things, lots of good meals and a few good glasses of wine. On our first night we stumbled upon the Place de la Bourse, just as the water mirror was in a state of mist, it was magical. We also were there to see the lights come on, again a magical feeling. It was glorious weather as well, which really helps. We even got up to the new Cité du vin (City of wine) and had a look at the building (we didn’t go in to the exhibition). We will definitely be heading back to Bordeaux at some time.

Pat at Place de la Bourse

Pat at Place de la Bourse

Picnic lunch view

Picnic lunch view

Tasting wine in Bordeaux

Tasting wine in Bordeaux

Mum with the pont jacques chaban-delmas in the background

Mum with pont jacques chaban-delmas in the background

So this week we are actually back to being by ourselves as mum and aunty B go off to explore other parts. So it has been back to work for me today along with it being a light day (after all that food and wine it is needed).

Remember Pats blog next week – http://patblog.patbell.co.uk

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Delia’s Dahlia’s – 20 August 2016

My first Dahlia (grown from seed!)

My first Dahlia (grown from seed!)

like the colour of these

like the colour of these

with roses in the background

with roses in the background

My dahlias are coming along nicely as are most of my plants at the moment. I’ve been very happy with how things are progressing. I’ve even started to harvest my tomatoes (along with the million or so courgettes which are still going strong), which is great as we have been having lovely weather for the past few weeks, finally had some rain on Thursday, and yesterday and today, but the good weather is due back tomorrow.

It was lovely to have the nice weather as we had visitors this past week. K&S are now back in Aberdeen and according to the text received – it was overcast and 15 degrees! Glad I’m in France. We did lots of walking while they were here. We walked from the Château de Montbrun up to the Le Grand Puyconnieux and discovered this cross – which commemorates something but we have yet to find out what. It was a lovely walk and the view from the top spectacular. We briefly stopped at the recently re-opened tavern on our return to the Chateau and had an ice cold drink. Then off to home for a quick change and a lovely meal out.
Cross

Sunday was a quiet day – we were planning a visit to the flea market in Limoges but discovered that they didn’t have it in August (thankfully before we had driven to Limoges), Monday was a fete day (public holiday) here, we headed off to Jumilhac-le-Grand for a Vide-Grener (basically a car boot sale) where I picked up a wonderful basket for collecting my veggies in. Tuesday was a great day spent in Limoges with another wonderful meal at a Crepiere then Wednesday a picnic and a walk (twice) around a nearby lake – all in all very relaxing.

Limoges loves Le Tour - this was from the Tour de France

Limoges loves Le Tour – this was from the Tour de France

Then back to work for me – at least for 3 days, next week my mum arrives. So this weekend will be spent cleaning the house and doing the washing! However as our vacuum died last week it might be fun trying to clean the bedrooms, we are hoping that the new one will arrive today.

So on that fine note, until next time.

Remember Pats blog next week – http://patblog.patbell.co.uk

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I’m too old for this – 06 August 2016

Hello all, another 2 weeks have past and I have come to consider that I am way too old for all the hard manual work that I have been doing! As mentioned in my last blog Pat and I have been re-pointing the back wall of the house. Pat started this by himself, but I jumped in to help as we saw very quickly that it would take forever with only one person doing it. So to help I have been removing the mortar with a small pick axe and Pat has been mixing the new mortar and doing all the pointing work. I have discovered that this is very, very hard work. Despite being ambidextrous and using both hands to do the removing my right hand is very sore and the rest of my body doesn’t seem to know what is happening! I ache everywhere, however today will be our last day for a while. Unfortunately, not because we have finished but because we need to tidy up the back as we have guests arriving in a few days – and as we are ¾ of the way through we are at a good place to stop.

Repoointing

Repointing

And as I also mentioned last time, I ripped up some of the carpet upstairs. This was from the landing and I was expecting the floor boards underneath to be in very bad condition and thought I would have to sand them and either paint or stain them. Fortunately, the carpet that had been put down was not put down by professionals. It was just laid (no underlay) and held in place by the skirting board and the connecting plates between the rooms and the top of the stairs. So after the joy of taking that carpet up I also cleaned up my work area, did a picture wall (my first one, I’ve got one planned for the living room) and re-organised the book cases.

floor and wall

floor and wall

towards my desk

towards my desk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have been having lovely weather, but unfortunately the good weather has bought an unexpected guest – and when I found this on my aubergine plant I was curious as to what I had found, looked it up on the internet and then killed the bugger! The picture is of a Colorado potato beetle, a pest (famous as a most-wanted at UK border controls) that likes all plants in the nightshade range so would have destroyed my aubergines and my tomatoes if I hadn’t caught it early. I’ve had one more since over the past week and killed that one, so hopefully no more. We shall see. I’m also sick of eating courgettes, I’ve made all sorts of things and given some away, but they are still going strong – I’ll take any suggestions 🙂

The now dead beetle

The now dead beetle

Remember Pats blog next week – http://patblog.patbell.co.uk

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Summer is here – 23 July 2016

Good Morning everyone I’m sitting in bed while writing this and it is 9:55am! Yes I kid you not, I slept in this morning until 9:30, very unusual for me these days as I usually get more than enough sleep during the week. Obviously this week I didn’t – partly because it has been warm at night but also I’ve been reading late at night. I’ve not had as much work as usual this week, except for a busy day yesterday, so it is really starting to feel like summer.

As Pat mentioned we had a busy time at a Garden Party for one of the social groups we belong to, which was lovely as the weather was beautiful, we chattered away, ate good food (including scones) and we had a raffle – in which I won a red rose bush. It is now in the garden and surviving the hot summer weather (plus the few storms we’ve had).

On Bastille day we headed off to friends for a bbq and fireworks – great night chatting to friends however I was too tired and we left before the fireworks began, we decided that we would go to our local events on the weekend to get the photos we wanted. Unfortunately due to what happened in Nice our local ones were cancelled as a sign of respect. Thankfully madam who lives next door came and told us that they had been cancelled otherwise we would have been leaving the house at around 10:50pm to go to our planned vantage point to watch them when they started at 11:00pm. That is one thing I find difficult here, the fact that it gets dark so late in the evening so things like fireworks displays start so late.

Again as Pat mentioned in his blog we had the student exhibition opening our Vernissage. It was a great evening, chatting to so many people and running into someone I hadn’t seen for a year. It was a great night and good to see my paintings in amongst everyone else’s. I felt that they looked good, one of my class mates asked after my mountain picture and was surprised that I hadn’t put it in the exhibition. Unfortunately it still isn’t framed. We were going to have pizza from the local pizza van, which sets up opposite the gallery on a Friday, after we had finished with the Vernissage, unfortunately when we came out he had orders which would have given us a 1 hour 40 minute wait. We decided against the pizza. Interestingly if would have been our first take away in France if we had been able to get it!

Below are a few photos of my flowers that are coming out – this is the first time I’ve grown flowers from seed. It has taken a lot longer than I thought and a lot haven’t survived. But I’ve got flowers now (not enough to cut) and one of my dahlia’s is definitely going to flower (again grown from seed) I’m pleased with this but I’ve discovered that I need to sow a lot more seeds to get the results I want; a learning experience for next year.

Antirrhinum - Day and Night

Antirrhinum – Day and Night

My marigolds in my veggie patch - I love these

My marigolds in my veggie patch – I love these

Today my plans are continuing the re-pointing of the back wall of the house, finishing painting a wall in the house (2nd time I’ve run out of paint trying to paint this wall) and ripping up the carpet on the landing to expose the floor boards – photos next time.

Remember Pats blog next week – http://patblog.patbell.co.uk

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