Monday, 29 June 2015

Just to say...

...after a lovely weekend away with the Cycle Club (I did some enjoyable walks!) I'm off to the UK to work for 5 weeks, and then having 1 week holiday.

I'll try to pop by occasionally with news from the Kids department, but no promises are being made.

Have a lovely summer! Stay cool!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Quick update and TTFN

Hello Dear Peeps!

I've just realised I haven't updated you on our menus for this week. I was busy on Saturday (though I'm not quite sure what I was doing!) and yesterday it was the church open-air service and picnic on the top of the Plateau de Gergovie. We said Goodbye and God Speed to four families who were going bakck to the States - there must have been about 20 people stood at the front! They will be missed. Of course, we have no idea whether those Michelin families who are coming over in September will want to be part of the church. We will have to wait and see. The weather was beautiful - in fact the back of my neck got a little too red!

This week is busy: I have to sort out end of month/end of quarter stuff, make sure I've got myself ready for my 6 week sojourn in the UK, make sure I've got myself ready for the 3-day Voyage with the Cyclos at the end of the week (I could do without it, TBH - I feel a bit panicky about whether I can fit everything in that I've got to do!) as well as teach on Wednesday as usual, plus a couple of phone lessons and end-of-course paperwork.

So a quick rundown:
TODAY: Cathy's coming for dinner - she's leaving tomorrow. Sad face. Hopefully she'll be back for a couple of weeks in September/October, but that's not certain. We're having Hairy Dieters' Goulash with rice and mange touts. Melon &/or cherries for dessert.

TUESDAY (fasting): Hairy Dieters' Piri-piri chicken and salad and cous-cous (small amounts)

WEDNESDAY: A Mr FD special: Roast veg/pasta sauce/pasta bake

THURSDAY: Hairy Dieters' Pork Souvlaki - planned a couple of weeks back, but never eaten. With salsa and rice.

Then on Friday we're off on the Voyage with the Cyclo Club to somewhere near the Cevennes (I think!) There will, no doubt, be lots of fuel for cyclists...! I hope to do some walking either by myself or with others from the non cycling contingent.

Back on Sunday evening, then I leave for the UK on Tuesday morning: drive through France to Calais, then ferry and a day chez MiL. Call in to see a couple of friends and then full steam ahead for LINES summer school 2015

Bottom left hand picture of me playing pat-a-cake with Lisa, one of the Kids from last year.

So this may be the last time I sign in for quite a while. Please don't forget me! I'll be back in August!!
TTFN, dear Peeps.

Thursday, 18 June 2015


Blatent self-advertising:
If you've not read it already my A-Z of Travel is over at The Teapot with thanks to Kezzie for the inspiration.

I had a terrible night last night - I'd been for a walk, and had an hour's dancing during the day, and then went to Cathy's for a delicious meal (salad, blanquette de veau, cheese, pecan pie) with a few glasses of wine. I obviously had not drunk anywhere near enough water throughout what was quite a hot day, as I spent all night waking up with terrible leg/foot cramps. One point I was in tears in the bathroom, as it was so painful! I must have woken at least 12 times. This is partly a problem relating to my ever-so-gradually shortening tendons, but I think it is also a dehydration issue: this morning I have only eaten a crispbread with a slice of cheese, but I've ben so thirsty that I've drunk half-a-litre of juice-and-water, a cup of coffee and a red fruits infusion!

I must remember that too much wine + exercise + not enough water = a very uncomfortable night!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Potatoes and Plague Houses (Kind of...)

Hello dear Peeps!

Last week we were a bit of a Plague House so the planned menus went rather to pot...

Wer had a lovely time with our friends on Sunday - it wasn't too hot but it was hot enough to have lunch in the courtyard, which was very pleasant. We spent a good 4 hours over the meal, from aperos through to digestifs, and then went for a short walk up to the Chateau de Cornes d'Urfé, where we went with Huw and Trish a couple of weeks back. Everything was very yummy, and Veronique brought a "Soupe aux Cerises"

There was some left over which I have frozen, but am thinking of using to make a type of clafouti for the church picnic next week. Or maybe not.

On Tuesday Cathy and I drove down to Roanne - she wanted to buy garden chairs and other such stuff and I went along for the ride. We did the shopping and then had lunch at La Pataterie
This is a chain restaurant, serving meals based mostly around potato. The focus is baked potatoes, but they have other things, including a burger served between two potato rosti, with a mound of chips on the side! We both chose a baked potato - mine was Basquaise, and Cathy's was Montagnard. I had a spicy tomato sauce, chorizo and pieces of duck, Cathy's had jambon cru, and raclette cheese. The servings were huge - two enormous potatoes each, and a big salad, with plenty of appropriate accompaniements. 

In the evening Mr FD & I went up to Cathy's to help her fit one of her purchases- a new satellite dish. Mr FD was up the ladder, unscrewing the old dish, trying to fit the new one, stripping wires etc. Tools going from hand to hand, sometimes in the mouth to hold them...Therein lay the problem...The pigeons/swallows had been roosting in the area and also had been shitting there. With Mr FD's cavalier approach to hygiene and tool holding, on Wednesday he was mighty ill, thanks to transferred pigeon shit.

Mr FD doesn't look as cute as this when he's ill!

Since then he has not wanted to be far from a convenient toilet! Things are getting better now - he ate a meal of rice and vegetables and a bit of meat yesterday and it has stayed put, so we are hopeful of a recovery in the near future, but of course, we haven't eaten what was planned.
On Tuesday, Mr FD had pasta/tapenade/lardons. I had a salad as I'd eaten well at lunch time.
On Wednesday he ate nothing and I ate a big salad with ham, and eggs 
On Thursday he ate nothing and I ate pasta/tapenade/lardons
On Friday I ate beef, rice-and-vegetables and another big salad, while Mr FD ate similar, but smaller and sans salad. 

I haven't been fasting this week as my back has been very painful, so I've been taking strong anti-inflammatories. As these need to be taken with a meal I thought fasting wasn't a good idea. I need to get back into it, as I'm aware that there is a roll of something flabby appearing thathasn't been there for quite a while! My back is getting better - I'm off the anti inflammatories and back on normal paracetemol!

Today I'm off to watch a friend's daughter's dance spectacle. We have been promised pizza and wine to make it more bearable!! Mr FD is going to have soufflés plus a sauce.

SUNDAY: grilled chicken, remainder of the soufflés, vegetables.

MONDAY: Up at Cathy's for Apèros-diner - that is for drinks, but with enough substantial nibbly bits to mean we don't need dinner afterwards! Monique, Michel and Richard will be there too.

TUESDAY: (fasting) Pasta & roast vegetables.

WEDNESDAY: Back to Cathy's for dinner with her next door neighbours (who are our friends) .
I will skip one of my dance classes, so I get there at a reasonable time. 

THURSDAY: Round about this time it is La Fete de la Musique - to celebrate the official start of summer. Our friend, Pierre, who came to dinner last Sunday, is in a jazz band and invited us over to Lyon to hear him play. So Mr FD, Cathy and I are going over to Lyon on Thursday for the concert, and staying at Pierre's overnight. I have no idea when, what or where we will be eating!

FRIDAY: I'll root around in the freezer to find something!  

As usual I want to thank my dear friends for their comments. It's always lovely to hear from you.

JAN - I hope the weather is getting warmer in the UK (especially as I'll be across there working near Newbury for July and part of August!) It was cooler on Wednesday/Thursday here, with a thunderstorm on Wednesday evening, but the sun is shining again now. I think the washing on the balcony will soon be dry again. Time for another load at lunchtime I think!

MICHELLE: I hope you enjoy the cauliflower when you make it. I thought it was okay - but then I'm not a great cauliflower eater. Have you tried cauliflower pizza crust? That isn't bad.

I have been going to the Cat Refuge in Roanne on Fridays when I am down there shopping, and taking some cans of cat food with me. Yesterday I spent half an hour in one of the cages stroking and cuddling cats. Some of them were really keen to be cuddled, and climbed on my knee, or rubbed against me, which was lovely, but it was so sad how afraid some of them were of my hand. Obviously they had only known a raised hand to mean "I'm going to hurt you" rather than "I'm coming in for a stroke"

There were four cats (at least!) who I was sorely tempted to smuggle out in my bag - but I don't think Mr FD (or the Very Bad Kittens) would have been very pleased with me! Still, I will continue to go to Roanne a bit earlier than usual so I can fit some cat cuddling in between shopping and teaching!

So that's my week! What about you? Do you have anything planned to celebrate the start of summer?

Have a good week, whatever you've got planned. God bless xx

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Alan Turing & LOLCats: strange bedfellows indeed!

Good morning Lovely Peeps! And - at the moment - it is a good morning, although it will soon be getting a little too hot for me! Yesterday the temperature mid-afternoon, had reached 33°: admittedly that was when I'd parked the car for a while, in the supermarket car park, but the temperature didn't decrease as I drove away. The cyclists have gone out this morning instead of for their usual afternoon sortie and the cats are seeking out the cool spots.

Yesterday morning I spent quite some time bodging up a netting cover to protect my bean plants - one, some or all of the cats discovered that they liked bean leaves so my lovely seedlings which were growing so well suddenly found themselves as nothing but a stem. Grr. So with some bamboo, a lot of netting and a reel of sticky insulating tape I created something similar to a set of goalposts. Hah! Get into that one George!(For t'is he we suspect) Taking advantage of the netting I planted a few more bean seeds, and a courgette plant. We'll have quite a little market garden going on the balcony at this rate!
This isn't our balcony - but it might be one day soon!  

Last week's planned menus weren't adhered to - on Wednesday we went to Cathy's to watch two films on her big screen. We saw "The Imitation Game" and "Pride".

It was a second viewing of "Pride" for us, but "TIG" was a new purchase. I really enjoyed it - I thought Benedict Cumberbatch was splendid (well, it's Benedict Cumberbatch, isn't it?!) and the story was compelling, and interesting and intensely anger-inducing too, as one watched how Turing was prosecuted and treated as a homosexual. Turing has been given a royal pardon, but there are an estimated 49,000 men who were treated in a similar way, 15,000 of whom are still alive today, and who have not been pardoned. Cumberbatch supports a petition calling for the pardon of all these men: so do I. Here is link should you also wish to do so

Anyway, the planned Chilli beef tacos weren't eaten - instead I took up some guacamole and some spicy marinaded sausages, and Cathy made a quiche and salad, so we had that instead. Then on Thursday evening we were invited to Louis and Odette's house. These are friends who are going to be going to the UK with Mr FD in the summer for Ride London
 I will meet them the week after - when I've finished teaching - and we'll tour Britain: Cotswolds, Liverpool, Yorkshire, Cambridge and Kent. they are all very excited and enjoy talking about the finest details!
Yesterday it was, as I said, hot. The planned Pan Haggerty really didn't appeal, so I bought some prepared brochettes  and we had them with a huge pile of salad. Much nicer on a hot evening!

This week's menus are rather salad-based too, and may require some flexibility, as we may have another film night but we may not..!

TODAY: Chilli beef tacos, as planned for last Thursday.

SUNDAY: Pierre (a colleague of Mr FD) & his wife are coming for lunch, so I'm making:
b) Summer roast chicken with tabbouleh: marinade the chicken in a mixture of harissa, Greek yoghurt, & spices overnight & then roast. Serve with tabbouleh.

c) Mary Berry's Ginger & Lemon cheesecake

We hope to be able to eat in the courtyard if it's not too hot/cold/wet. I need to get on with the preparation soon, but I'll finish the blog post first.

MONDAY: Salmon - leeks - noodles - chilli sauce

TUESDAY:fasting: Hairy Dieter's Pork Souvlaki with various salads (I'm hoping for some left over tabbouleh!)

WEDNESDAY: Hairy Dieter's Spicy Bacon pasta - basically pasta, some lean bacon, broccoli, yellow pepper, tomato sauce & chilli. Easy enough for Mr FD to prepare as I'm dancing.
THURSDAY: Film night? I'll make a quiche which we can then eat here or there! I'll make it with whatever I've got lying round - probably including ham, tomatoes and sweetcorn.

FRIDAY:Sort-of fasting Sausages & salad. Easy peasy for a hot day. With baked potatoes if it's cooler.

to everyone for their comments. I love reading what you write & knowing what you think about the recipes etc. Please do continue to say hello when you come to visit!
FRUGAL QUEEN - hello! Thank you for your kind comment - and I apologise to everyone else. I called  Froogs "Blogging royalty" but, in truth, you are ALL "blogging royalty" not just Frugal Queen. It's just that she calls herself "Queen"!!!  

MICHELLE: Did you try the cauliflower? I enjoyed it more than I thought I would...the curry wasn't bad either, but I think it was too much faff for the pleasure! I'm not sure I'll be making it again. But what is seitan?

GILL: I see you didn't make pan haggerty when you'd planned it on the menu for next week?

KEZZIE: Pan Haggerty is a mix of potatoes, carrots and bacon, basically. I suppose you copuld make a Pan Haggerty "blind" (that is, without meat - like in "blind scouse") but it might be a bit meh.

MAGGIE: I look forward to reading more Brambling in Brittany when you're back! I'm sure Chris could fitr a bit of cooking around his DIY!

FISHCAKE RANDOM: belated congrats on your newest arrival, by the way! And I hope you might try some of the recipes....How fussy are your babes about food?

POMPOM: Yes I did get your email - I'm glad you liked the tea! And it would be great to be your neighbour. I would enjoy feeding you at regular intervals and you could cheer me up with your sunny disposition! Never mind, we shall have to be friends over t'internet instead.

A tea-themed LOLcat for PomPom

JAN: Was the white chocolate & ginger cheesecake a success? I do like it, but it was made so many times in such a short amount of time I got bored of it! Which reminds me I promised one to a friend for a birthday present (in February!!!) - I'd better make it!

I hope everyone has a lovely week, full of love, laughter and good food. If you try any recipes I'd love to know. Have fun, dear Peeps!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Life is so endlessly delicious.*

(* full quotation: "Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” from Ruth Reichl)

Hello Dear Peeps! I'm back up to 128 Followers again - how exciting! Thank you for joining us for the ride Jan from The Great Escape. Jan is planning her escape from teaching - and not a moment too soon, judging by the tales of her SMT. I started reading another blog where a teacher (only in her second year) was so disillusioned by the state of schools today (or rather, what teachers are being asked told to do and how they are being treated) that she plans to leave at the end of this academic year. It is really sad - but I quite understand: I was in this situation 15 years ago, and, despite our slightly precarious financial situation, I do not regret it one bit. I could not return to mainstream education now. I would not return to mainstream education! 

Sorry, a bit of a rant. Here is a Great Big fat Dormouse Welcome for Jan!

Last week's food seemed to consist of tomatoes and courgettes in various guises - Chicken Provençal, Pasta Bake, roast vegetables with merguez - very nice but a tad same-y. This coming week is slightly more interesting:

TODAY: Hairy Dieters' Beef & Coconut curry with roast spiced cauliflower. This isn't the Hairy Dieters' recipe, but is quite close. This is Jamie Oliver's recipe for the cauliflower. I'm a tad dubious about the cauliflower (as I'm not a great cauli fan) but I'm willing to give it a go with some cauli that we've got lurking in the freezer.

SUNDAY: The aforementioned (in several posts) Duck-breast-and-duck-potatoes. Planned many times but never eaten! Everything is in the freezer, except the green beans, so it is easy to do. Or not do, as the case seems to have been several times!

MONDAY: Pesto cod parcels, potato wedges and asparagus. I haven't got cod, I've got haddock (aiglefin in French) but I guess it will do. I hope it doesn't make the house smell - last week's cod was a bit whiffy.
This is from the Woman magazine 500 Calorie Diet booklet that they sent me, free of charge. It's a really good source for Fasting recipes. Although, with the wedges I'm not fasting today.

TUESDAY: Fasting today. Hairy Dieters' Aubergine Bake - can't find a recipe, but it's basically layers of aubergine and tomato sauce, with mozzarella on top.

WEDNESDAY: We might be at Cathy's for a Film Night (she has a big screen & projector set-up) so we may not be having Chilli Taco Salad Bowls from the Hairy Dieters. Or I may make it up & take all the "fixings" to Cathy's so we can eat it there.

THURSDAY: Veggie Spaghetti - a really easy recipe. I may well roast the peppers though to give more flavour, and I may add a tablespoon of pesto through the pasta.

FRIDAY: Hairy Dieters' Pan Haggerty and baked beans. Mr FD is charged with making this - not too tricky, I have to say, so I think he should manage!!

There's a bit more variety there than last week, I think.

The last couple of days have been good weather...the cats have been enjoying it, but I suspect if it gets much warmer they will start seeking out the cooler places in the house

Yesterday I took some tins of cat food to the local refuge and spent a few minutes stroking a few of the cats there. It is so hard to see the lovely kitties in bare cages. I know the good folk do their best but it's not like the cats have comfort... I may take up knitting again (I usually pause in the summer) to make a few blankies for the refuge here, as well as for Spanish Stray Cats.
Thank you for all your good wishes on our anniversary & comments on the last post about our stay at the Hotel Radio. Lots of drooling over the menu!! 

This LOLCats is especially for Michelle & Rick, celebrating 31 years next month! Go on, find something nice to do - even if it's just spending an unhurried day in each other's company!

I spent part of this morning repotting seedlings of various herbs from a set given to me at Christmas. I didn't want to just abandon the seedlings so I potted lots of them, and put the rest in my wildflower trough. They will either grow or not. I also discovered that several of the bean seeds left in the packet had germinated (I'd left it out in the rain after I'd planted some) - so I have potted those up. So we now have 5 bean plants already growing, plus four more just planted up. Looks like we'll have plenty of beans this summer!

I think a walk is in order this afternoon - probably my favourite (which is quite long) that goes through the woods. I've taken to wearing a pedometer most days (but forgot to put it on this morning) It sort of encourages me to try to do a few more walks, as it shows me how immobile I am on some days. I've not reached 10,000 steps on any day yet, but maybe one day. It's not that easy - even my 1.5 hour walk-through-the-woods only calculates about 7,000 steps.

So I hope you have an endlessly delicious let me know if any of the recipes appeal to you, or if you have tried anything from past links. It's good to know if I've inspired anyone else to eat well! I fear we probably eat too well!!!

You can read aout our trip to hear Public Service Broadcasting over at The Teapot

Monday, 25 May 2015

An anniversary weekend.

Thank you everyone for the good wishes for our anniversary - actually it's today, 25th May, but we went away at the weekend to celebrate.

Mr FD got back from cycling, and after a shower and a quick load of washing we were ready to go. The drive to the hotel was about an hour and we got to the hotel with plenty of time to sample the luxurious shower before dinner. The room was lovely - I should have taken a photo, but I didn't.
However, somebody else did:

and above is the bathroom.

We went to the restaurant at about 7.45 and the meal was (generally) delicious! 

We had an apero to start - Mr FD had an orange juice (still rehydrating after cycling) and I had a kir. This came with a plate of mis-en-bouches - little tasty things. I can't remember how they were described, but one was a little vegetable tart, with a blob of creme fraiche, there was a little verrine of smoked fish-and-fishy-foam, something a bit liver-y which I didn't like, and a little roll of chicken. 
The service was very attentive - our napkins were handed to us, there was a waiter just for bread rolls, there was a sommelier (more on him later!), there was a handing-the-menus-out waiter...etc etc.

So we started with:
Seiche et Quinoa au Citron Yuzu Servis dans un Coffret à l'Encre,
Emulsion Onctueuse au Fenouil
This was squid, served on a bed of quinoa with a little light, crispy pillow of crunchiness, allegedly made of squid ink, with a creamy fennel sauce.  It was very delicious, and very pretty too. I considered taking photos, but we decided that the restaurant was too "refined" for me to be whipping out my camera. However, while this is not our starter, it gives an idea of how lovely the presentation is:

The next course was:

Merlu Sauvage des Côtes Bretonnes Cuit Lentement,
Ail des Ours et Epinards, Asperge Blanche de Marsat, Beurre d'Orange à la Coriandre
Wild hake served with bear garlic (?!) spinach, white asparagus and orange-coriander butter. I have just discovered that "ail des Ours" is in fact wild garlic. This was also very delicious and very beautifully served.

Next came:

Dos de Lapin Rôti, le Jus Clair au Thym,
Petits Pois, Chou Pointu et Jeune Carotte, Condiment Petits Pois à la Moutarde de Charroux
 Rabbit with peas and carrots,  a pea purée and a thyme gravy.
This was our least favourite course - rather a disappointment, if I'm honest. The rabbit was tasty but toothsome, and the peas were quite big and - not exactly tough, but certainly not soft and delicious.

we then had 
 Fromages Frais et Affinés des Terres d’Auvergne
Regional cheeses. I decided to let the waiter choose the cheeses for me, and he gave me a selection which included a very nice goats' cheese, a creamy St Nectaire, a not-so-good Tomme des Montagnes and a smoked cheese. 

Then there was dessert: 
« Accord n°2 »:
Le Chocolat origine Madagascar 64%, le Gingembre et le Rhum Ambré
 We did take a photo of this, but I need to wait for Mr FD to send it to me from his phone. This was because there was a message piped in chocolate around the edge. I wasn't sure I'd like this, as I don't tend to go for chocolate desserts but it was absolutely lovely - fruity, chocolatey and gingery all at the same time. Nom,nom.
Finally we had tea-for-Mr-FD-and-coffee-for-me. And with the coffe/tea came not just after dinner mints but an entire trolley of things to choose from to nibble on!! I was so blown away that we let the young waiter choose for us - there was a selection including macarons, fruit jelly, chocolates, shortbread biscuits, was amazing!

As I said, the service was very attentive, including the Sommelier who poured the wine into our glasses as we emptied them. By chance I found this description of him from The Chepstow Voice:
"The sommelier was about five feet tall, balding, very camp and sort of mewed like a cat. He was charming."That's about right!
He had been very serious all evening - polite, respectful, attentive - but as he came to pour the last wine into my glass I said "No, no, give it to M'sieur," as Mr FD hadn't drunk as much as I. But Mr FD replied "No, have it!" So I agreed (well, it would be rude not to!) And the Sommelier winked at us both and just said "seventy-thirty!" and then smiled. We both fell about laughing as we realised he'd been keeping a bit of a tally on the percentage drunk by us both. I suppose it sounds a bit rude just written like this, but it was the sudden, unexpected "cheekiness" and break in his demeanour that made it fun and not judgmental in any way. And it was probably spot-on too!!

After all this we went for a little stroll outside, to see if we could see the view over Clermont Ferrand, but we couldn't. Never mind. Time for bed!

The next day we had breakfast and then went to Puy de Dome. We hadn't been up since the rack-and-pinion train was put in place a couple of years ago.

Although it was hazy at the top, and the wind was bitingly cold, it was still very pleasant to walk around. It has been very nicely laid out - it isn't wild mountainside any longer, but with the number of visitors per year it couldn't be. The old car park has been grassed over, and wheelchair-friendly paths laid all around the summit. 
which makes it better for people like me who are shaky on their feet! There were paragliders out - with the wind they were going at quite a speed! - and quite a lot of people. We left at 12.00 and the trains going up to the top were standing room only. It's a good idea to get there early, I think!

We tried a couple of restaurants for lunch, but they were either full or didn't have a small menu. However just by chance we found a little pizzeria that was open, and we had a very nice truffade each

Truffade is basically cheese-and-potatoes, served with dried Auvergnate ham and green salad. Not that small! Particularly when followed by a strawberry sundae: cheesecake ice cream, strawberries, mini-meringues, strawberry jelly, strawberry sauce, topped with chantilly cream and Haribo strawberry jelly sweets! We didn't have much tea when we got home!

Mr FD drove us home along one of the cycle routes that he does with the cycle club. Very pretty - but I wouldn't want to do it on a bike!

All in all a gastronomically enjoyable weekend. Good to celebrate! And we were so taken wth the success of the saving 2€ pieces that we're doing it again to give ourselves another treat at the end of the year. Possibly at this place:

It looks lovely too!