October 28, 2013

SHADOWS AND REFLECTIONS

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As the south of England is being battered by the worst storms in years, and further north we wait to see if we’re going to catch the tail end of it, it’s hard to believe that only two weekends ago we were in beautiful sunshine, gardens were full of flowers and the trees were still in full leaf.

On the Sunday I took my new camera to the annual event at Le Petit-Pressigny called “L’Art et Lard”.  Looking back at the photos cheers me up no end.

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For those who don’t know what “L’Art et Lard” is all about, please be patient as I will explain soon !!

The weather was glorious and we were there at the right time of day to catch shadows and reflections just right.  It was a fluke.  With my old camera I just snapped away obliviously but now I seem to be taking more notice of what is the right angle to take a picture from, or where the light is best.

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How different it was from last year, when the river rose almost before our eyes as it rained heavily on and off.  In fact our two weeks in France last year were almost a complete washout.  This year the weather co-operated beautifully.

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Lulu always enjoys L’Art et Lard.  It usually means a nice walk and lots of fuss from French people who have never seen a standard poodle before.  They will probably never see another one, unless it’s Lulu again !!

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This is a little taster of what L’Art et Lard is all about.  I put the picture in this post because of the nice shadows.  There will be more about the event itself next time.

October 26, 2013

HANGING ON TO SUMMER

If there is one day of the year I dread more than any other, this is it.  The last day of British Summer Time ~ the day of the night when we put the clocks back.  From tomorrow it becomes dark by teatime and although we benefit from lighter mornings for a while we soon seem to lose those as well as the days get rapidly shorter.  For most of my adult life I have hated what we always called “the long, dark nights”.

When we left France last weekend the sun was shining and it was 23°C.  Back in Derbyshire this week we have had rain, rain and more rain, interspersed with sunny intervals.  During one of those sunny intervals I picked some of the last roses and a few other flowers from the garden.

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The garden has had its best year for a long time.  Summer was late to get going but turned out to be one of the best for a few years and I was able to give it more attention, keeping the weeds down, dead-heading and trimming little and often.  The garden responded to this TLC and rewarded us with a lovely show of flowers, especially the roses.  They are still blooming defiantly and somehow surviving the wind and rain.

When we planted all these roses we chose them not only for their colour ~ I especially love the purple ones ~ but also because they are all fragrant ones.  They smell fabulous and there’s nothing quite like the scent of an old-fashioned rose.  Having “time to smell the roses” has been a real joy for me this year.

Just having a few flowers brightening up the hall will cheer me up during the first of the long, dark nights.

Bon weekend !! And don’t forget to put the clocks back !!

October 24, 2013

FIRST STEPS IN PHOTOGRAPY AND FOOD ISSUES

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I took my new camera to France where I hoped to have the time to get to grips with it.  When we went to Ken and Walt’s I took it with me and they gave me a few tips on how to get started.

We went for a lovely long walk along the banks of the river Cher where I took quite a few pictures.  As you can see, it was a very grey afternoon, not ideal for taking pictures at all.

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I photographed anything and everything, using different settings, just to see what would happen.  I liked this old cart which just happened to be lying around in someone’s barn.

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I liked this picture of something in the foreground in focus, background blurred.  Clever stuff.  Well it would be if I could remember how I did it.

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At one point in the walk we were on literally a carpet of chestnuts.  There were chestnut trees both sides of the path and no way of walking without stepping on them.

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One of the things that always takes me by surprise is the abundance of home grown produce in the Loire.  Where I live in Derbyshire very few people have apple trees or large vegetable plots, because land is expensive and houses are built on small pieces of land.  Nick and I are luckier than many as our house was built in the 1950’s so it has a decent sized garden.  Even so we have limited space to grow anything, but houses built in the last few years have tiny gardens which are purely recreational.  A lot of people who do have gardens have turned them into patios for eating out, or car parking space, as many older houses were built before most people owned a car so there was nowhere to put one.

When I was a child everyone had a garden and grew vegetables.  Very few people owned a car.  When they did get a car they parked it on the road.  Gardens were for growing your food, not sitting out and barbecuing, and most people grew much more than they bought, even in winter.  Nowadays most of the fruit and vegetables we eat come from a supermarket.

There has been much in the media lately of the food waste issue.  As a nation we throw away a huge amount of unused food each year and indeed Nick and I have been guilty of that too.  If you buy a lettuce it’s hard to use all of it but I haven’t bought a lettuce for several months, just plucking a few leaves off the plants in the greenhouse as required.  Once I started working part-time we got better at not wasting food and now I am retired we do better still.  And I feel much more motivated not to waste stuff if I have grown it myself – all that effort just to chuck it in the bin ??!!  No way !!  I didn’t feel the same about stuff I bought from the supermarket, even though a lot of effort went into earning the money to buy it.

The supermarkets are beginning to highlight the food waste problem, which seems odd to me as they have a vested interest in selling us more than we need because they make more profit that way.  Supermarkets are however trying to dig themselves out of the hole they have dug in previous decades when they were found out to be the bad guys in so many ways where food production, marketing and supply is concerned.  Such as the “horse meat scandal” a few months ago.  Since then the supermarkets have been frantically trying to restore public confidence and convince us they retail food responsibly, but there’s always a new food scandal around the corner.

Anyway, one of the things that very much attracts us to our part of rural France is that people grow an awful lot of their own stuff and the growing season is longer than in the UK.  Which brings me to Ken and Walt’s apples.  They have several varieties of apple tree in their garden including one which was absolutely loaded with beautiful Bramleys.  Walt gave me a large bag to bring away, which I have been making good use of, eating some in pies and crumbles and freezing the rest for future enjoyment.  Delicious !!

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Naturally while we were at their house we enjoyed a glass of local wine, in this case a Vouvray.  The more eagle-eyed may spot a clue as to what we had for lunch !!

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And last but not least, a picture of their gorgeous dog, Callie the collie.  She’s very photogenic.  And easier to photograph than Lulu, who barely sits still for long enough to get the camera out.  I suspect Callie is very used to having her photo taken !!

Anyone interested in the food waste issue might be interested in seeing Phil’s post in his excellent food blog, Mug of Strong Tea.

October 15, 2013

A NEW CAMERA

My little brother has treated himself to a new camera and passed his old one on to me.

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This is what I would call a proper camera.  It looks like a camera and has lots of knobs to twiddle.

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I had been thinking for a while that I ought to get a proper camera.  One that looks like I know what I’m doing with a camera.  Which I don’t.

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I have loved my little pink point-and-shoot camera and it has done good service for the last few years.  There are things that it won’t do, which has been frustrating.  The question is, will I be able to take those pictures with my new camera?

I have no idea, but I look forward to finding out.  I will probably need a course in photography to do the finding out, as I know next to nothing about it.  I’m using my new camera on auto mode at the moment, getting used to how it feels.  And avoiding most of the knobs !!

October 9, 2013

AN ABUNDANCE OF TOMATOES

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So after a very disappointing start to the year – rather an understatement – the summer came good after all.

Even in the UK we have enjoyed the best summer for years.  Sadly it’s almost as though someone flipped a switch on 2nd October and we said an abrupt farewell to summer and hello to autumn, with chilly days, rain and wind.

However, back here in the Loire, we are hanging on to summer for just another few days.  The weather is due to change to become cooler and more autumnal tomorrow, allegedly.  Today, after a shaky start, the sun came out and we ate lunch on the terrace once again. 

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Anyway, this recipe is a good one for all those friends in the Loire who are wondering what on earth to do with a huge tomato harvest this year.  Lucky things, for even though the summer was half decent in the UK, we have not done well for tomatoes, even in the greenhouse.

So if you are not truly sick of tomatoes yet, try this recipe.  It’s called “airport potatoes” but could just as easily be called “airport tomatoes”.  You can read all about it here.  Only then will you find out what an airport has to do with it !!