Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Flight or Fright Do you like travelling?

Dear Readers,

Perhaps many of you love travelling, as do I do, though I don't make a priority of it for a number of excuses. However, on a misty, moisty morning when I am slow to arise and feeling in touch with hibernation I discover this amusing anecdote. My sympathies are with the writer. My one and only long tour flight to Sri Lanka some 10 years ago was also shameful. The digital camera is a wonderful tool for exposing unacceptable meals as well as much else! Come on Richard do something! Yes let's eat food from around the world - I love it - but the feast should be in the eyes before the stomach. My cookery teacher taught us that!!!!!

Yours sincerely,


Saturday, 24 January 2009

Basic carbohydrates

We are remarkably adept at baking wholemeal bread (no machine), potatoes and onions whilst in the next oven batch there will be apple and pineapple crumble and pineapple and date cake. Unfortunately the photo shows a pas bon pdt (pomme de terre) ! The potato had some unpleasant black stuff as potatoes do and I dug it out. Looks like a mouse has been a nibbling! Or maybe Captain S had a bite! Look what a half kilo of flour can make!!

Sweetpea's Pineapple and Date Upside-Down Cake

Sweetpea's Pineapple and Date Upside-Down Cake

This has been a fantastic "hit" with our French friends who loved the texture of the gateau. It went down a ball at the bal folk evening! Accolades were received from Eliane et Oonagh. Merci!

1. Preheat oven to 180°C
2. Cream together 150g butter and 100g soft brown sugar (or caster sugar).
3. Beat in 2 eggs
4. Fold in 100g self raising flour (or plain flour plus baking powder) and 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder.
5. Melt a small amount of butter and spread it onto the 23cm circular cake tin.
6. Sprinkle some sugar on top.
7.Arrange slices of fresh or canned pineapple and put stoned dates in the gaps.
8.Spread the cake mixture on top.
9.Bake for about 45 minutes. Check the cake after 25 minutes and adjust oven temperature accordingly. Modern ovens all appear to be different!!
10. Cool. Then turn upside down onto a plate.
Eat a slice as afternoon cake with a cup of tea .....or eat as a dessert with cream or custard or crême anglaise or ice cream in the Summer!!

Replace dates with figs or glacé cherries or any other crystallised fruits.
I have also replaced pineapple with apple quarters that have been lightly stewed.

THRIFTY TIP If you don't have any eggs as I did one day then substitute cream and milk!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Congratulations Barack Hussein Obama

44th President of America Inaugurated January 20th 2009

Friday, 16 January 2009

Happy Birthday

January 15th - On this date Captain Sensible was born some years ago and he still looks a fine boy!
Influenced by Maureville, I decided to make him a Bumper Breakfast. I normally never cook such a plate but I knew he would appreciate it just once in the year. So two eggs on two slices of fried bread, two duck sausages, a piece of marinated pork shoulder quick fried so it replaced the bacon, (Sweetpea can never eat pork), one tomato in two halves, and sliced mushrooms served with Sweetpea's Chilli Jam and Coffee.
His face was a picture - better than the cat having been presented with a bowl of cream.
Sanxay Gallo-Romain Site was the focus for this year's Magical Mystery Tour and he guessed the destination just as we were South of Poitiers! We were the only visitors and so we had the site to ourselves. Captain Sensible had robed himself in a toga and was cheering on the Gladiators, then cheering on the lions, then retching in the vomitarium. Crossing the River Vonne to the spa waters he derobed to enjoy the thermal baths, moving from the tepidaurium to the natation pool. He rerobed and in need of further reflection of the lives of the inhabitants that once were real people here, proceeded to the Temple to pray to the Gods. By Jupiter and By Jove, it was a splendid afternoon as the sun shone through the fog, beckoning to the catkins to spring into flower and come out to play.

In the evening Sweetpea cooked the following menu:
Hake Steak in a Parsley Sauce with Julienne Carrots.
Filet Tournedos with Creamy, Buttery, Mashed Potato and Floret of Broccoli.

Fromage - Capres d'Aurillac, Salade Verte et Pain Complét
Clementines, Chocolates, Coffee and Port

Wines, Music, Warmth, Romance,

Good Food and Good Company in the lovely Verandah

A Masterpiece!

What a perfect day to be remembered when days in life go awry!
By the way, he enjoyed a Chocolate Cherry Party Cake the evening before, when the Dancing Group sang to him in French and in English and Stefan making a 'surprise mock announcement' offered him greetings from "the Maire" and from "the organisers" of this special celebratory event. Would he now blow out the candle - only one? - ah but you must re-light it and blow again and again and again for the number of years you have! The cake was cut, the gateau disappeared, French compliments to the maker and fun with French friends!
François "would like to know how to make this kind of cake".

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Captain Sensible Starts to Blog


Captain Sensible continues to make websites.
He has started a web log where he experiments with photos and texts, colours and fonts, techniques and skills. Therefore this explains the changing look of his site. Recently he has referred to me as well as to his hero.
Here he is with Francesca who was one week old.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Gran'mama on the downhill slope

The light was so fantastically beautiful that we had two walks during the day. In the morning Big Feet came with us. She would if she could follow us faithfully and loyally but it was clear that she preferred to retreat to the fireside fairly soon. In the afternoon we toboganned on a sheet of plastic down the hilly road out of the hameau in the direction of La Roche Posay. What fun!

Winter Poem

Standing beneath the brown leafed oak tree
Stand and Be
Stand and See
Stand and Imagine
that for centuries it has always been thus
And even on such snowy days
of sub zero temperatures in double figures
Nothing changes in Nature.
The little Jenny Wren called Trogladytes Trogladytes
searches for insects in the dark cavernous branches.
The long tailed tits chase and chatter endlessly
looking for nourishment to plump their small ball bodies.
Animals are busy trying to keep alive.
The cockerel calls from way across the snowy meadows.
Praise the sunlight.
Here and there a dog barks noisily.
A vulgar cry.
All is silent and still but on the move.
The sun ascends to raise the temperature
and cause the beauty to melt
to disappear into rivulets and streams
which in turn feed the river waters
and flow in a different way.
The icy particles sparkle in the sunlight
like a sequinned silvery-white strapless cocktail evening dress,
chic and cheeky.
A field twinkles with yellow stars on it's white cloth
as if to mimic the hundreds and thousands of lights
that shimmer and shine on an artificial L.E.D. lit silver Christmas tree
that in turn tried to capture and emulate
the memory of such beauty witnessed today.
The light is bright, it shuts out dark.
Witness the many tracks of fauna
that came at night searching for forage.
Here a deer clambered over the dry stone wall,
leapt to the ground and trundled through the vineyard.
Here two deer walked side by side in safety from the hunters.
Here I walk in my wellington boot tracks of yesterday
so as not to disturb more of the unspoilt layer of frozen waters on either side of the lane.
Sing praise to being alive.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Bed and Breakfast at Maureville Chambres D'hotes

If you are travelling from the North to the South of France you may like to interrupt your journey and enjoy bed and breakfast at Maureville Chambres d'hotes. Maureville is a 17th century stone farmhouse set in the Charente river valley, Department of Vienne, in the Region of Poitou-Charentes. This French farmhouse provides comfortable accommodation near Charroux and Asnois, just south of Poitiers, where the charming and hospitable English owners speak French. Heather is a very good cook and you will feel rather spoiled by the time you depart. There is a seven metre swimming pool for guests and if you have dogs then there is a special bed and breakfast kennel for them. It is not far from the motor racing circuit at Le Vigeant. For further information go to: http://www.maureville.com/

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


Today is Tuesday. A snowy blanket greeted us when we opened the shutters. On Sunday evening we had returned home after a 10km walk in chilly winds to discover that someone had very kindly left a gift hanging on our front door. There was no message but how very kind.


In order to appreciate the hoar frost we walked down the lane to the crossroads, by which there is now a very nice wooden table and bench, ideally situated for us for when we pack a food basket, wander down "La Balade de Plaisir" and enjoy a different eating place.

On our return, we gathered winter fuel and hauled a small dead oak tree, shouldering the weight between us. Captain S set to cutting it into logs and Sweetpea loaded a week's worth of 50cm long oak logs onto the porch. We were as warm as toast!

Then our first unexpected guest arrived. It was Martine, she who had left the surprise New Year gifts. One was a most exquisite piece of embroidery, a small white banner which says "Bienvenue" in Hardanger embroidery. The other was a "heart" in blue and white checked cotton with Swiss embroidery. So delicate and pretty. She is very fervent (keen and eager - in Fr and Eng it is the same spelling, just a different pronunciation) to learn English so she can speak with her German friends. She collected English homework!
In the afternoon Huguette arrived to help us with French translation, Monique came to wish us Bonne Santé and Violette passed by with her border collie Gin. So there we were, in the "Caf'é de Village de Vaux" speaking mostly in French, enjoying amitié, laughter and pleasure in an afternoon goût, drinking Wilkinson's Earl Grey tea and eating Sweetpea's Apple Fritters. We discussed how to make Steamed Golden Syrup puddings, Toad in the Hole and Yorkshire puddings. We also discussed that the French eat similar foods and how the latter was once eaten as a first course to fill the stomach before the meat course. Monique discovered a penchant for Tate and Lyle's Golden Syrup and told us some very funny stories about Italian pasta.
Then back to work with our French translation!
Now that we have two computers we can blog, design, develop, improve, learn, watch a DVD (we have two!) read, email or problem solve the technical mysteries of new and old computers! Not to mention the extra work that seems to develop, like the digital storage and editing of photographs. All of this consumes time so we will have to get fit by exercising and walking! The Live Box purchase has been a good thing as we can now telephone landlines as part of our abonnement. Mobile calls will of course be charged for!
I need to get back to playing the piano and the other idling instruments, as well as get to grips with the other creative projects I'd like to achieve.
Thank Goodness that I don't have to go to school again! What a blessing that was 5 years ago! Lucky me! Will 2009 bring me answers to other conundrums?
Epiphany starts today.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Christmas Canapés at Leigné-les-Bois

We had a wonderful evening with our Language Group just before the week of Nöel. Since September, we have met together with others in our commune and whilst we have learned French, they have learned English.
We decided to give what we thought would be a surprise party but the other 14 people in the group arrived thinking they were going to give us a surprise! We made toasted canapes with home-made liver paté (mousse), goats cheese, salmon, capers, olives and tomatoes and set them upon a silver platter. We also made tiny weeny mince pies with my home-made vegetarian mincemeat, now 4 years mature, and of course my own pastry!Captain S thought they would not like these but they did!!! Well of course they are so much better than the LARGE English variety of mince pies! We explained that once these interesting pastries would have contained meat!
We had organised the evening around the theme of "Christmas Crackers". We printed out an A4 sheet about the history and invention of the Christmas Cracker. This was pertinent to us, as the Tom Smith Christmas Cracker factory had existed in Norwich, England until quite recently, and because we still have family connections with Norwich. Tom Smith's idea had emerged from Paris, France where he bought bonbons in a twist of paper. We had bought some Boots Crackers, which it turned out were of excellent quality.

We arrived early and laid the table with a white cloth, red serviettes, little disposable Christmas plates (ages old from Woolworth's, England), with a christmas tree design, plastic glasses, the canapés, bubbly, candles and other Christmas decorations. Then to OUR SURPRISE our friends brought real glasses, Champagne and Vouvray, chocolates and biscuits and we had such a marvellous excellent feast and of course different type of toasts!
First of all we made everyone work to read our English text about the Crackers. Then we showed them how to pull the crackers. Everyone seemed to enjoy this bit! Oh what fun as everyone searched for the paper hats, the mottoes and the surprise gifts after the bangs and hilarity.

Then to our surprise we were presented with three large wrapped parcels. On opening these and discovering the excellent wines and Champagne, Sweetpea was so moved and so touched she started to cry, as his her wont, but had to adapt her tears into laughter as we went around the group, thanking each and everyone with bisous (kisses). Then Huguette was thanked as she received a beautiful orchid plant. I was feeling emotionally confused and so very happy. I remember thinking that France has given me so very much pleasure in my life between the difficulties of adopting a new country and that I/We have received so much in friendship from people we hardly know and possibly more gratitude and kindness in a short space of time than for Sweetpea's 23 years service to one school. It was for that recognition that she cried!

What a wonderful evening! It was all so relaxed. It has been a tremendous privilege to give to others and we have received so much pleasure from our voluntary efforts. We have tried to make it fun for them, without being too teacherly, and we realise they have valued our efforts.
Thankyou to the Language Group for the superb bottles of red and white French wines and champagne.
Thankyou to Huguette for teaching us French, for French translation and her expertise in speaking and teaching English.
Thankyou to everyone in the group for making the evenings a joy to attend.
We hope they all learn as much as we learn and maybe more!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Golden Syrup Steamed Winter Pudding

Grease a pudding basin and then put about 2 large tablespoons of golden syrup with some breadcrumbs at the bottom of the basin.

Then in a different bowl, cream together 110g butter with 110g caster sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add two eggs and beat lightly. Fold in 110g self raising flour, a pinch of salt and a teaspoonful of ginger powder, plus the zest and juice of one lemon. Put the mixture into the pudding basin. Cover the basin with greaseproof paper and some aluminium foil. Wrap in an old cloth and tie the cloth to the basin with string.  Steam for about one hour or one and a half hours. Serve with custard or cream and if you wish some extra melted syrup.

TIP 1. If you crumple some aluminum together and put it at the base of the pan this will prevent the basin from cracking. 

TIP 2.  Put the mixture into individual small white souffle dishes and then steam in a bain -marie in the oven.  Each pudding should be sealed as above. 

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Bonne Annee 2009

I cannot find the french accents on the qwerty keyboard but we had plenty of those last night.

What started as a quiet and sedate evening when we arrived to choral singing, soon livened up after Rum and Orange Punch with foody aperitifs. We sat down to a shared dinner. We took Pissaladiere and Ginger and Apple Roulade anda Sauvignon Blanc. Entertainment started before midnight. We listened to a young boy play classical music on the keyboard, then a french duo with voice and guitar, then a Mediaeval Sketch in costume where Captain Sensible had been lured into saying Oui when he meant Non and found himself riding on a hobby horse around the stage! After that 4 talented unaccompanied singers wearing bowler hats, moustaches, coloured tee shorts and white gloves performed several numbers ending in a jolly santa number with everyone dancing on the floor. Dessert followed with an unimaginable choice of gateaux and desserts and Champagne. Then coffee at about 2am after everyone had helped to clear the tables, chairs and complete kitchen duties. Once all was tickety boo the traditional French dances started but soon we were flagging on a sugar high and so we headed home completely sober.

Today was a leisurely day dealing with domestic and technical tasks! We donned lots of weatherproof gear and did a stomp around Angles on the logis trail. Captain S looked like the King of the Castle as he marvelled at the lichen clad tree trunks, standing atop of the vast and ancient stone mound discovered on a clearing where the oak trees had been recently felled.

We have managed to get the Sony Vaio sufficiently clear to accept the Livebox and Internet is quicker but at a loss and cost to other functions.

On a good note we managed to get the DVD The Piano to play on the Apple Mac so that is a step forwards!

OK there's the rest of the year to go... but as a friend once used to say.... hey ho!

Bon Courage to everyone and HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Pics to be published another day! PS> October 19th ... I see I never did!