Monday, August 3, 2015


Finally getting some Kale to grow!  This is the third lot I've planted, the other two got 'attacked'.  It's in a window box so that I can bring it inside at the first sign of trouble but I think it really needs to be planted into something deeper - like the ground.
The dwarf beans are doing nicely, when they're not getting smushed by Ringo.  We've had a few harvests already -  so delicious and tender.

There's lots of swiss chard, new potatoes and courgettes on the menu at the moment, and we are looking forward to runner beans, beetroot, pumpkin, cauliflowers, to name but a few, a little later on in the season.

I've been bring a little of the outside in this week too: two litres of rhubarb, ginger & mint syrup, rhubarb & ginger jam, red currant gelée and spicy tomato chutney (tomatoes from local market). And I need to get out and pick the black currents soon before the birds and the deer eat them all.

Whilst I took the boys biking this little lot was left stewing in the slow cooker in some basil passata, and with some fresh eggs it made a delicious 'homegrown' summer supper!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Peg centerpiece

I have a very low threshold when it comes to heat, and boy has it been hot here this summer!  So during the day I have been inciting the kids to stay inside with sunny day activities.
I remember doing this one with Rémi when he was much younger, so when Tino recently dragged out the craft box I was very happy to find a packet of pegs hidden deep inside.

The dogs were being very patient with us while we crafted, so whilst waiting for the paint to dry we took them both for a little dip.  The poor things, can you imagine wearing a fur coat all summer!

Juno is Ringo's sister and we look after her from time to time when her humans are out of town.  Not only is she a different colour to her brother but she has a completely different personality - Ringo is very laid back and Juno is, well, MAD as a hatter!

But she's great fun and Ringo and the kids love having her for sleepovers!

Then it was back to work putting all the pegs together.   I think I may need to go over things with my glue gun as I don't think the craft glue we used will hold things together very long, but so long as nobody touches it things will be fine!

At 9pm it was finally cool enough to go on the trampoline. Not really the best before bedtime activity!

This afternoon they have put up a lemonade stand out on the road.    Business is a little slack to say the least and they have already had a drive-by visit from the local 'police municipale'.  I stayed well hidden behind the curtains and they managed to sweet talk their way out of being shut down all on their own!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Yarn Along - You win some, you loose some....

Been playing Russian roulette with a ball of yarn...that wee scrap of brown was all I had left to finish the second, yes I lost the game.
Ended up ripping out the first foot and then stripping the both feet, and you know what? - I like being a looser!

I think they're way more fun this way!

Not too sure what happened with the light in the second picture, the colours in the top one are much more true to life. 
I used the sock pattern from Fair Isle Style but just changed the motif to prancing horses from Scandinavian Knitting Designs- (and stripped the feet!!)

It's still scorching here.  We're having to use tap water now for the garden as the outside barrels are bone dry.   It's way to hot to do anything out doors apart from nipping out to grab some bits and bobs for meals, so surprisingly for this time of year I'm getting quite a bit of knitting done.   Making steady progress on my Barn Sweater.  So far this pattern is very easy to follow, I've finished the raglan shaping so it should be plain sailing from here on in.

We braved the boiling sun yesterday and hiked up to the Lac de Catogne (2200m).  The kids brought their swimming trunks as they had every intention of having a dip,  whilst on the other hand, us 'unprepared' adults  took advantage of the solitude and jumped in in our undies!!
Reading Gut and Psychology Syndrome pretty interesting on the whole.  The author claims that psychological  disorders, such as autism, dyslexia, are directly linked to the health of our gut, and that the correct diet can cure them.  She puts forward a very convincing argument but seems to have an extremely damming opinion of vegans which kinda spoils the book for me a little.

What's on your needles and night stand this week?
Linking up with Ginny for today's Yarn Along.

Ringo - Lac de Catogne

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Garden Pests...

Woke up to these 'little' beauties snacking on my salads last week!  There were nine of them in total, and despite their big feet and chomping chops they did less damage than the invisible pest that keeps eating my kale!

Not sure where they came from or where they went afterwards, 'tis a bit of a mystery.

Richard heard on the radio yesterday that the best time to water the garden is between midnight and 4am!  So this morning, there he was bright and early (not 4am btw) doing the necessary, with his little garden helper in hot pursuit.  It's scorching hot here at the moment, I've never experienced a summer like this before,  I'm suffering and I'm not the only one.  The poor dog got totally over heated yesterday and vomited everywhere whilst we were out.  We slept with the front door wide open last night so he could come and go as he pleased and this morning we found him sleeping outside.

The garden is general is looking pretty good.  I've totally lost my gardening mojo lately but luckily my f.i.l is around to pick up the slack!  We haven't planted anything new this year, just the same ol' same ol'.
We already harvested lots of strawberries, lettuce, rhubarb, spinach and a few new potatoes (teeny tiny ones but we couldn't hold out any longer).
Still to come, that is if the Kale monster doesn't decide to change it's diet, are runner beans, dwarf beans, beetroot, swiss chard, onions, broccoli, courgette, leeks, radish, carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes, pumpkins, red & black currents and plums.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"take five" knead bread

No pictures of "takes 1,2,3 & 4" as you've seen one cowpat you've seem them all, right!  This super easy - so simple a four year old can make it - bread caused this 40(ish) woman a lot of grief!

The first four attempts tasted great, they just looked flat.  At first I followed the original Jim Lahey recipe but my dough was very runny - not sure I correctly gauged 1 5/8 cup of liquid as I don't have a 5/8 increment on my measuring cup. Other sites give 1 1/2 cups of water and even 375ml, which was way to much! Given that this bread is commonly hailed as fool proof, I began to trouble shoot - staring from where I'm at!  1020m (3346ft) above sea level which in the realms of culinary alchemy often calls for  some small modifications to established recipes.  In this case less rising time and oddly enough less liquid.  After researching bread making at altitude - 3000ft and over - it would appear that often more liquid is necessary.  Also I'm not quite sure the flour we have here in France is the same as in the US, we don't have 'all purpose flour' which seems to be common place stateside.  Here our flours are mainly classed by number - 55 for cakes and biscuits, 65 for white bread, with the numbers gradually increasing 80, 110, 130 for wholemeal.   I settled on two cups of 65 and one cup 110, for 1/4 tsp instant yeast, 1 1/2 tsp salt for just a little less than 1 1/3 cup water.  10 hours for the first rising and 1 1/2 for the second.

I'm now happy enough with the result.  I think next time if I carefully place the dough in my dutch oven rather than just 'plopping' it in, I might just get the perfect round shape I so desire!

On the up side I've had a few first time success's in the kitchen, which helped temper the bread 'hicups':

Lemon & Mint Syrup

Left Over Oatmeal Muffins
'Nut-emma' - hazelnut/chocolate spread

'Nutella' is making the headlines in France right now after Ségoléne Royal - the environmental minister - trashed the product claiming that it contained very few nuts and lots of saturated fat and emulsifiers (you don't say!).  Her claims don't sit well with 54% of the french population, who believe she is wrong to site one particular product as 'un-healthy'.   Personally I've never bought the stuff 'cause it tastes like grease and my kids don't like it.  They do like, however, the homemade version - which contains LOTS of nuts, cacao powder, maple syrup and a little water.

So what's cookin in your kitchen lately?
Have you tried the No knead Bread experience?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Our Little Den

Just before our last visit to Wales in April my dad mentioned that he had a present for me - it was something new but old, wasn't an antique but could become one and as we were coming by car we would have no trouble bringing it back to France with us.  I had no idea what it could be, and was more than a little sounded like a lot of thought and money had gone into this gift - what if I didn't like it.
Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

He'd bought me this amazing picture of Strumble Head Lighthouse!!!! 
It came however with a condition, that it be hung over the stairs, opposite the computer table!  The particularity of this area is that ten years after moving in it still hadn't been plastered.

I'm planning on painting the wood wall slate grey (one-day...)
Richard designed and built our house (he's not an architect or builder) and apart from his fathers help did the entire thing himself!  As this space was over the stairs it would need some pretty inventive (home made) scaffolding and quite frankly Richard was feeling pretty spent with building work and so kept putting it off.

Hi (high) up there!
But the gift was the motivation that he needed, and so it has gotten done, and not only that,  he also rustled up this wonderful book case for me in secret one afternoon!

The uprights are made from trees that Richards father planted for the birth of his oldest son almost fifty years ago, that they cut down in 2002 (our kitchen celling is made from these also),  the shelving is left over wood that Richards parents recieved from his grandmother as a wedding gift more than fifty years ago!

Years ago on the eve of my best friend's wedding we took a walk out to Strumble Head Light House with her, the future groom, her parents and my dad, all very pleasant indeed until Richard spotted a seal, then another swimming just of the coast.  Wanting to share his discovery with us he shouted "phoque! phoque!" - which means seal in french but is unfortunately pronounced like a very naughty English swear word!!!  Given as I'm a french speaker I didn't bat an eye lid but the others, wondering why Richard had taken it upon himself to stand swearing like a trooper at the water, all stood glancing at each other, in much puzzlement!!!  How we did laugh afterwards, and the incident even made it into the groom's speech the next day.

On giving me the picture my father also reminded me that when he dies he wants to be cremated and his ashes thrown from the lighthouse!!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The birds and the bees

We have a new chicken lady, to replace the one that disappeared into thin air this winter - literally disappeared into thin air - there were no feathers or signs of a struggle as with a dog or fox attack so I'm assuming that she was taken by a bird of prey. 
The kids have called her Paella, I think it is a loosely disguised threat that if she doesn't come up with the goods she will be the goods!!!  Not that they, or Rich, would ever go through with it - I've called their bluff before on this subject telling them I'll peel the veggies while they 'do the necessary' with the chicken - and the lady in question has always lived to see another day, or lay another egg as the case may be.

We don't really have bees but we do now have a bee hive!  It needs a little work and I need a little information on bee keeping before we buy a swarm, but it's a start at least.   The boys are now very busy trying to think of names - approximately 40 000 - for it's future inhabitants....that'll keep them occupied for a while!

The garden is slowly taking shape, but we are paying for our lack of autumn maintenance with sore and blistered hand this spring - it's a jungle out there!!  no pictures I'm so ashamed!!!
Despite Friday's snow - yes Snow - we have managed this weekend to plant kale, carrots, Brussels sprout, courgette, runner beans and pumpkins and I've gotten myself a 'wonderful' farmers arms tan!!!

Sow - how does your garden grow?