November 28, 2011

HOLIDAY BAKING

When we were chez nous in October, we were expecting visitors mid-morning for coffee and I decided to bake a little something to go with it.

Usually I would nip down to the boulangerie and get a little selection of treats from there but I had an urge to make something myself.  So I made a small batch of madeleines.

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They are very easy to make and take no time at all.  I use a madeleine tin from Lakeland that I got as the freebie in a “3 for 2” offer last Christmas.  The recipe is a Waitrose recipe that makes just the right amount of mixture for one tin.

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I also used my icing sugar sifter that I bought in France and is absolutely brilliant – gone are the days of icing sugar fog in the kitchen as you sift it over a cake – this pack of icing sugar with its own sifter puts just the right amount on the cake instead of all over the place.  I bought it in Auchan I think, or maybe Intermarché.

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They were absolutely scrummy and you can see the recipe here.

November 27, 2011

A CUPBOARD ON THE ROOF

When we furnished our little house we did it mostly in one go three years ago, bringing all the furniture in a large transit van from England, all in one weekend.  You can read about that here.

This year we decided we needed another piece of furniture, some kind of large glass fronted cupboard to store our crockery and glassware.  This was so that we could have it all nearer to the kitchen, saving having to walk across the living room with trays precariously piled up with stuff after each washing up session.  Plus the fact that the little sideboard was crammed full and getting down on our hands and knees to winkle things out at every mealtime was becoming annoying.

Just like before, we spent some time searching furniture shops, vide-greniers and second-hand shops in France and found nothing that was even remotely the right size to fit where we wanted it to go, not to mention affordable.  So we came to the conclusion again that if we were to avoid spending a lot of our precious holiday time shopping for furniture, we should have to buy it in the UK and somehow get it over to France. 

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The furniture we bought only three years ago is now discontinued.  We were rather disappointed about this, as they did have the perfect cupboard in the range.  We considered buying it at the time but thought we would never need it.  Now we know we should have bought it in the first place.

However, the store we got it from had a cupboard made for us to our own specification for about the same price as we would have paid for the original.

You can see how we got it to France.  The wrapping started to unravel half way down the M1 but we bodged it back together and the cupboard arrived in perfect condition.  Much easier than hiring a van or towing a trailer.

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We’re very pleased with the new cupboard and it’s full already.

November 24, 2011

STRICTLY THE BEST

Strictly Come Dancing is one of those shows that you either love or hate.  We love it !!

This year we feel that the contestants haven’t quite come up to the standard of previous years.  They have plenty of enthusiasm but not quite the sparkle.

These two videos show one of the best contestants ever, I think, Rachel Stevens.  I don’t think there has ever been a better Argentine tango or Rumba since.

I decided to look them up on You Tube to remind us how it should be done in advance of Saturday’s competition !!

November 21, 2011

HALF TIME

It is now just over a month since we returned from our last holiday in Le Grand-Pressigny.

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In a few weeks’ time we will be heading back to France again.  It can’t come too soon.

The weather here in Derbyshire has turned into November all of a sudden.  Yesterday it was cold, misty and miserable all day.  Until now it has been unusually mild, and dry.

We did a few last tidying-up jobs in the garden – our green bin recycling service is being cut between now and March – part of the local council’s economy measures.  The last collection is this week so we crammed as much into it as possible.  The rest will have to sit in the emptied bin until March.  It rankles that we pay huge council tax for a service that they have decided to cut.  The bigger your house, the bigger your garden, the more you pay in council tax and the more you need your green bin.

The next few weeks will fly by as we drag ourselves to work in the ever-darkening mornings.  I can no longer ignore the fact that we are hurtling towards Christmas once again and with all of that we will soon be on our way back to France. 

Last year it was touch and go whether or not we made the trip.  Tons of snow fell overnight on the 25th November and we were snowed in for a week.  More snow fell throughout December and travelling was difficult to say the least.  I am sincerely hoping that last year was one of those winters that we only get about every ten years.

I think I must be suffering from half time blues !!

November 19, 2011

DEM DRY BONES

When we were chez nous in October, we went for a walk along the track that goes behind the ruined château at Etableau. 

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It was a mild but overcast day but we had a lovely walk and there were some surprises along the way.

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Nick and Lulu spent ages searching for arrowheads in the fields next to the track.

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Then we came across this huge pile of silex that had obviously been picked out of the earth by someone.

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There were all kinds of fascinating things in it, including these old bones.  We wondered what animal they came from.  Any suggestions ??

But we didn’t find any iphones !!

Have a bonne weekend !!

November 18, 2011

CAKE, ANYONE ??

It’s the day of our annual charity cake stall for Children in Need.

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This is about half of the cakes we had to display. 

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But you’ll have to be quick, it will all be gone by teatime !!

November 15, 2011

DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE !!

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Or you could find yourself up a grassy bank !!

November 12, 2011

UP, UP AND AWAY

On our last Sunday in Le Grand-Pessigny I heard a familiar roaring sound outside.  It was quite early in the morning, probably about 8.30am.

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I was still in my dressing gown when I dashed outside with my camera, just in time to see a hot air balloon drifting towards our terrace.  I waved to the people in the basket and Lulu barked.

It passed low over the house and seemed to barely clear the château.  I scrambled into my jeans and dashed up the hill to see if it had landed behind the château but it drifted off into the distance, quite low over the fields.  In the quiet of a beautiful sunny Sunday morning, you could still hear the roar of the burners as it disappeared over the horizon.

November 11, 2011

REMEMBERING

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Four years ago today it was a Sunday and Remembrance Day.  Also Nick’s birthday.

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We had owned our little house for two days and were staying in the hotel in the village while we bought some basic furniture, such as a bed, and got the house ready for us to spend our first night there.  That would be tomorrow.

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Our only friends so far in the village, Barrie and Lucie, invited us to join them in watching the November 11th parade through the village.  We were amazed at how big an occasion it was.  The parade and the villagers gathered round the war memorial behind the church and there were speeches.  All the names of the village war dead were read out and there were tears in the eyes of many of the people around the memorial, including mine.  It was incredibly moving.

Afterwards we joined everyone for drinks in the salle des fêtes and were introduced to Alex and Nicole and their two little girls, Isabella and Amélie.  We were made extremely welcome by the people of the village and Barrie also introduced us to the Maire. 

It was a bitterly cold day, in great contrast to the unseasonably mild November we are having this year.  We were well wrapped up in warm coats and woolly scarves.

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Afterwards we wandered back up the hill towards the château and to our freezing cold and empty little house with a very warm feeling inside us.  Maybe it was the wine we had shared with all our new friends but I think that was the point that we realised that this village and our little house at the foot of the château were something really special.  Something we hadn’t bargained for when we thought we were just buying a nice little holiday home.

November 9, 2011

AN ANNIVERSARY

It is four years ago today that we bought our little house in Le Grand-Pressigny.  Those years have flown by and we have grown to love the house and the village in a way that has taken us by surprise.

These before and after photos speak for themselves.  It was a neglected, unwanted and unloved little cottage and is now a cosy, happy place for us to spend our holidays.

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Le Salon

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La cuisine.

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La chambre principale.

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La terrasse.

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Le jardin.

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La fenêtre cachée.

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There are still things to do.  The bathroom will be refitted and the hot water tank moved into the cellar, making lots more room.  The cellar will be made into a cleaner, more useable area for storage.  The staircase needs decorating.  Then it’s finished.

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And then we can just relax and enjoy it.

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I would like to say a huge “thank you” to Alex and Nicole of Les Limornières, who have done a fantastic job of looking after the house and garden for us.  They have also worked very hard to bring about its transformation.  Without their help we would never have got it this far in four years.

November 6, 2011

FACES

I like the endless designs of lace or net curtains that you can get in France.  They range from chic and modern to quaint and old-fashioned.

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I’m not sure this was the best choice for a restaurant…….the faces watching us eat our lunch made me feel slightly uneasy.  Once I had got it into my head that these were little puppy faces, I kept wanting to slip them a morsel or two …….

November 5, 2011

EXPERIMENTING

I never tire of the view towards the château from the village square.

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When we were chez nous in October I was sitting with the customary apéro outside the PreHisto and was lazily fiddling with my camera. I found a couple of settings on it that I had never noticed before.

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This looks like it might have been taken in the early days of photography. Apart from the stylish metal chairs, that is.


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I took the same picture again and it could have been in the 1950’s, even with the metal chairs.

Nice, but I think I’ll stick to the colour settings. Mind you, at least I didn’t have to post off the film, and wait a week for the pictures to come back before I could make my mind up !!

November 2, 2011

CLOSED ON MONDAYS

I actually find it strangely quaint and reassuring that so much of France is closed on Mondays.

Living in the UK where all retail outlets are open the maximum number of hours legally allowed, so as not to miss an opportunity to sell you something, I rather like the feeling that our little part of France is still immersed in the 1950’s or 60’s and that you have to plan your shopping accordingly.

For example, the butcher is open all day Saturday until 7pm and Sunday mornings until lunchtime but closed on Mondays.  The boulangerie is closed on Mondays but bakes the bread which is sold at the Spa shop.  Most places are closed for at least two hours for lunch, including the supermarkets.

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Hence we had a bit of a challenge when we wanted go out to lunch with friends and the only day they could manage was a Monday.  Most restaurants are closed on Mondays but we dropped lucky and went to “Le Croissant” in Ligueil.

croissant2During the week they do the typical working lunch, with several courses including wine for a set amount.  We have eaten such lunches many times all over France and they vary from extremely good value to extremely scary and almost inedible.

At Le Croissant we were lucky.  Monday was turkey steak day.

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Every week seems to be the same – the dish of the day - plat du jour – is determined by the day of the week that you eat there.

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The restaurant was cheerfully decorated in a home-spun fashion and the proprietor was helpful and friendly.  The food was good and definitely falls into the good value category rather than scary.  Although that could definitely depend in the day of the week !!

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croissant5The buffet starter looked home-made rather than bulk-purchased, which was nice.  I can’t remember what it cost exactly but even with extra wine and a really nice coffee afterwards, it didn’t break the bank.

We will certainly be returning ……. but possibly on a Friday – the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday menus are a bit too scary for us.

What would be your favourite day of the week ?? !!