Monday, July 30, 2012

Hubble, bubble, toil and quite a bit of trouble!

I've been having quite a few kitchen 'positive learning experiences' of late, due to my pectin problem!

After picking a lovely bowl of red clover with the intention of turning it into jelly, a slight 'hiccup' in the art of culinary alchemy meant that I ended up instead with three jars of very pretty pink syrup.

 I used this recipe but omitted the box of pectin, as I couldn't find any, opting instead for organic jamming sugar, which according the the label contained pectin. I should of known better! just like those two-in-one shampoo/conditioner affairs this sugar/pectin deal was a total waste of time!
As I sat dipping my finger in this lovely pink liquid, hopping that suddenly it would cool into the desired thickness, I had an inspiration.  I'd try using it in place of other ingredients, i.e honey, maple syrup etc.  Guess what? it worked like a gem -  in these granola bars (in place of honey),

in yoghurt, over ice-cream, and in a strictly adults only pleasure - Kir, a french apéritif of chilled white wine and fruit syrup.  Each region has it's own version, here in Chamonix it's traditionally with black current syrup, but my little concoction maybe just the thing to change all that!!!  

Take two! rhubarb jam with homemade pectin and honey in stead of sugar! After making the pectin I did the 'test', dropping a spoonful of it into methylated spirits to see if it coagulates, it did. Bravo, proceed with regular jam making method.  And this is where, yet again, things started to go horribly wrong and I ended up with a few jars of liquid green gloopyness.   As the saying goes, 'there's no point crying over spilt milk - or runny jam'. Chin-up old girl everyone loves a rhubarb pie

and blueberry and rhubarb sonker (adaptation of a Taproot recipe)

On a more positive note I did have success with my Calendula Salve and have been slathering it on all kinds of itches, scratches and bites!  This works out so cheap compared the the organic shop bought stuff!
basic ingredients - dried calendula petals, olive oil and bees wax (not in photo)

I've also been dabbling in other home made cosmetics - coconut oil deodorant, rosemary hair rinse, peppermint foot balm, musk rose face cream and have been using home made laundry powder for about 2 weeks now and will never go back to 'shop stuff' again.

basket of homemade cosmetic goodies for my sister-in-law's birthday
Our garden red and black currents are ripe for picking just  now so fingers crossed for my next jam making endeavor!  No fancy stuff this time i'll just do exactly what I did last year, that seemed to work just fine.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Salt for Goats

For the second year running, in an attempt to reduce the amount of helicopter traffic, our local community organized 'La Foulée du Sel'.  Along with about 50 other 'sherpas', Rémi and I helped carry up 400 kg of salt up to the alpage and summer grazing grounds for goats and sheep.
We were joined in our efforts by Papy Bob (my father in law), Tatalow (Natalie my S.I.L) and a little later on, Léo - my nephew.  He turned up just at the right time, when Rémi, after a one hour sprint up hill (he though it was a race!) was starting to 'whine'.
the children each got 1 kg of salt to carry, the adults a little more...
the only way is up! and up... 950 vertical meters
then up some more!
Léo & Rémi
Papy Bob, who, after carrying his bag of salt all the way up, forgot to drop it off and carried it all the way back down again! by the way I forgot to mention that he is 79 yrs, and fit as a fiddle - two fiddles even!!
The alpage is a new building as the original was beyond repair, but the cheese cave, where all the dairy products are stored, until being brought down to Chamonix, dates back to 1811.
Alpage du Pendant
electricity free fridge
The major problem they have here is water!  up until recently water was drawn from the glacier melt via a system of cleverly hidden pipes.  Unfortunately the glacier is shrinking, to the extent that it is impossible to make laying more pipes a viable option.  They have a rain water storage tank but this year are having difficulty filling it.  Every year approximately the same volume of water falls on the alps but not always at the same period, thus for the moment the alpage has no reserve of water for the coming summer months.  So we may soon find ourselves as water carriers, maybe all that salt wasn't such a good idea after all!

Long long ago before wax paper, the shepherds used these leaves to wrap the cheese.  I bet the health and sanitary people would break out in hives if they did that kind of thing these days!
they also make good hats!
Finally we met up with the 'working gals' who had come over from another mountain, where they had spend the spring.

And well, how cute is this sheep dog!
puppy love!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Yarn along - it's magic

Well I certainly took my time in learning this little knitting gem!  Every time I saw a pattern with dpn's or Magic Loop I always took the little 4 needle option! don't ask me why!  That was until this little owl puff pattern came along and I decided it was high time I broadened my knitting horizons! OH MY, what a revelation!  I'm finding it so much easier than dpn's, which alway seem to slip out when I'm not using them.

I'm also nearly done with this scarf which has been on my needles since may 2011!  I've only got a brussel sprout size ball of the yarn left then it's finito!  I't's my no brainer project as after 14 months of w.i.p I have the repetitions imprinted on my brain.

As I subscribed to Taproot a little late, I've only just received the first two issues.  I haven't yet dipped into n°2, as am trying to make 'Soil' last as long as I can, it's great stuff!!  Also reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral and am inspired to eat more locally and seasonally as Barbara Kingslover and family do.  This means coming to grips with the reality of no more maple syrup, peanut butter, seafood or avocados!!!  or moving!  Uprooting us all for four 'luxury' food items is obviously not an option; reading 'Soil' has reminded me why our family, and I hope further generations of it, will stay implanted here where generations of my husbands family have existed.  Our house, that Richard built (this is by far the best handmade gift I've EVER received), stands where my father-in-law planted potatoes, where my grandfather & great-grandfather-in-law both grazed their cows, and where my boys plant, play on and fertilize (they pee anywhere when the need takes them!!) our 'soil'.

nestled between my dwarf beans and baby carrots
Just want to take a moment here to mention a blog I discovered a few days ago Life with Greyson + Parker, if you are interested in seeing beautiful photos and discovering and sharing a family's journey with autism please go take a look.
Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along and looking forward to seeing what everyone has making.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Born to ride

Since Tino learnt to ride his bike a few weeks ago, we decided on Wednesday, to take our first biking day trip 'en famille'.
And where better than the cross-country ski track in the Val Ferret, Italy, and what better incentive than a plate of 'Polenta Valdostana' with deer and sausage for us and Gelati for the kids!

note that Tino is not wearing a helmet! Naughty boy!!
This is also an excellent place to fish, or dream of fishing...
Rémi practicing his moves!

Personally I wouldn't mind living here, in fact I've even found the perfect spot...
would you like to rent, or are you more in the mood to buy, dear?
Lucky they have a huge park as the Mont Dolent is a s-l-o-w food restaurant! but somethings are worth waiting for.

pit stop

Thumbs up if you want to come back another time!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Marathon Man & Son

Today Richard missed his own personal record by 1 minute only after finishing, for the 3rd time, the Mont Blanc Marathon (42 km  elevation gain +2511m, -1490m)

After an extremely hot day yesterday for the 10 km, Cross du Mont Blanc 23km, and various kids events, todays runners, and we the supporters, welcomed this mornings cooler temperatures.
For the past 3 years Rémi has competed in the 800 m mini cross but this year a trip on some tree roots lost him not only his shoe but 'valuable' seconds!!  As usual all children who took part received a medal and went away feeling, and looking, like winners.

Papy Bob

This is the boys second competition in the space of a few weeks; on 17 June they ran La Combloranne (18.5 km Richard, 4 km Rémi).  Very uncharacteristically Richard finished his race a little 'unhappy' despite a decent performance, but Rémi on the other hand, was ecstatic on finishing his and announced that next year he was signing up for the 13 km. GO REMI!
La Combloranne
The official results got a little mixed up, apparently someone took 2h58 to do 4km!, but Rémi heard the guy on the micro say 10th as he crossed the line, and was more than happy with that!

what's up buttercup?
Tino is still to young to enter any events and me - too lazy!!  In previous years I have competed and must admit to feeling a little bit guilty today to have been such a sloth of recent months. Shame on me!

This is a group of disabled runners, not a great photo, so I'll explain it.  There are two special wheel chairs being rolled by teams of four who alternate between pulling and running.  And right at the back in pale green are the blind runners and their guides, all of who followed the regular 42 km race route.

Richard has a disabled friend, who lost his leg in a road accident when he was 15, and who is now a member of the french disabled ski team, so I am fully aware of the incredible talent that disabled athletes posses.  But still, seeing this peloton today filled me with admiration and brought tears to my eyes.