Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles

I’m carrying on the theme of the French idiom, so here is the second one. I’m not sure that we feel our asses are surrounded by noodles BUT we do consider ourselves very lucky to have ourlittlehouseinfrance.

Dimanche 30 Juillet – up early and off to a vide grenier in Pujols.
On Monday morning the paving slabs for the terrace were delivered, the lorry only just managing to squeeze through the hedging.Also purchased a small chest of drawers via LeBoncoin from Eymet. A bit insignificant and so I ended up painting it cream.


On Tuesday morning our neighbour Margaret popped around with her daughter and children. She has been a resident in the village for a long time and knows many of the other residents well. Sylvian the plumber came to give us a devis for putting in an outside tap and changing the lavabo in the bathroom. He was very efficient and came to complete these small works the next day, Wednesday. Wednesday evening we drove to Saint-Loubes near Bordeaux to purchase a pine commode via LeBoncoin, bringing it back precariously strapped to the top of the car.Thursday 3 Août – Callum’s 16th birthday. Can’t believe I have a 16 year old son. Where did those 16 years go, in the blink of an eye!!!!!  There would be a picture of him here as he’s very handsome, but he won’t let me post any pictures of him😟 so here’s a piccie of Bella between his legs. Candy fridge freezer delivered in the morning and then we went to Callum’s favourite city of Bordeaux. Had a good mooch around and Cal chose his pressie. Then on the following day we went back to Bordeaux again to the cinema to see “Spider-Man Homecoming”. Very entertaining but had to dash there from the car park as usual due to our late arrival.

Samedi – evening went to the Bastid’Art festival in Miramont de Guyenne with Michele and family. Super entertaining with a reggae band, acrobats and then a swing band.Dimanche – sad face as the boy’s return to the UK. Not before Paul and I had a snoop around the vide grenier at Sauvetat du Dropt. The boys flight was due to leave at around 3.30 but it was delayed and they didn’t get home until late.

Most of the week on my own was spent cleaning and oiling the staircase and painting the small chest of drawers purchased from LeBoncoin. I did meet up with Barbara a couple of times and had an evening with Lune and her family. Also, on the Friday I had a nice trip out with Margaret to IKEA. It was a bit of an epic trip as I hadn’t realised how long it would take to get there and walk around. In the end it meant leaving Bella for 6 hours. Luckily she coped with that. The evening I spent preparing for the girls arrival the following morning.

Saturday morning, the girls landed about 10am. It was great to see them and they both looked excited to be here. We didn’t get up to much and as they were acclimatising we just went for a walk along the Dordogne river in Ste Foy La Grande.
Dimanche 13 Août – the girls were happy to get up and go to a vide grenier in Pellegrue not far away.  It was hot, hot but we managed to mooch around and pick up a few bits. In the evening we stood, and stood for over an hour to see “Mapping” at the Château de Duras, together with a fireworks display. It was well worth the wait in the end, although my feet were aching after all the standing about.
On Monday we went in the morning to Duras market, where I also caught up briefly with Barbara and Sharon and purchased a small common perennial plant in this part of France called “Gaura Lindheimeri”. In the afternoon we headed to Meilhan-sur-Garonne where we had a lovely walk along the Canal du Midi and down by the river Garonne. In the evening we had a pizza in the village restaurant. I wouldn’t go back.  Monday night there was a tremendous thunder storm. Lightening lit up the sky and the bedroom. Wasn’t sure I’d get to sleep, but I did. On the Tuesday morning the girls and I decide to go to the Monflanquin medieval festival. We took Bella and enjoyed browsing the stalls and watching some of the festival acts.  Although Bella didn’t like the drums. Mercredi 16 – visited Les Jardins de Beauchamp which is in Marmande. Catch my next post to see how beautiful these gardens were. After the gardens we went to see an armoire I’d found on the dreaded LeBoncoin (think I’m addicted). Needless to say it wasn’t as nice in the flesh. In the evening we went to the Monsègur night market. Then back for jollies around the kitchen table.

Jeudi – I am up very early writing up this blog. The plan is to visit Eymet market this morning and then go to Duras night market this evening. It’s hot today and we all enjoyed our mooch around Eymet market. The girls are enjoying the sunshine and I’m about to post this blog before joining them.

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A week in Cauterets, Haute Pyrenees 

A week in Cauterets, Haute Pyrenees ⛷🏂🎿Missed the Mais.

This was a lovely half term week skiing. Didn’t think I could manage all week but I did. It would have been nice to do the spa and Loudes but there just wasn’t the time. Our skiing has progressed really well. Particularly Callum’s snowboarding 🏂. We’ve filmed him on a red run for his GCSE PE and he’s also used his GoPro to film himself.

Cauterets is a really gorgeous place to stay – really busy all day long so a great atmosphere, interesting architecture.  There were lots of Eataries BUT as usual for me as a vegetarian, food was an issue, unless I was happy eating pizza all week – and most were booked and/or had two sittings so we booked one night and most nights just wandered till we found one with a table free. The evening we were going to venture to the cinema, La La land was cancelled.  However, there were lots of things to do, if you have the energy after a days skiing.  A swimming pool, spa (x 2), salle de jeux (mini arcade with pool tables / air hockey / pin ball etc) and several play areas for younger children.

Hotel Edleweiss, where we stayed was a family run hotel – the mother and father had very little English but one of the sons spoke really good English and as it happened another family staying at the same time could also speak very good English too.  The cousin of the hotel owner even bought Grandma a gift when we left! On the down side the restaurant had no choice, only plat du jour. No bar and the sitting area was for a max of 10 people. We did manage to get tea, coffee and wine every night delivered to this area. Not the same as having a huge open fire and views of the mountains as we have had in previous hotels.

Skiing – a bit daunting  when we first got up to the top! Blinded by the sun and what appeared to be very steep runs. Even my son, who is very brave, was a bit overawed to start with but ended up loving the steep slopes.  The food at the top was fine – there was a restaurant (but we tended to eat sandwiches / hot dogs / chips / waffles and crepes from the bar) it was busy but we always found a table and never queued for more than 10 minutes and that was a one off.

Our lessons this year were “ok” – the instructor just said that we could clearly ski and knew the techniques but just needed confidence (more of a psychology session!). He wanted to take us up to the top but I was too nervous – he said we would be fine!

Queues were horrendous – 45 minutes (at its’ worst) for a turn on the “source” pommel. However queues to go to the top on the proper lifts were actually very quick and if from 8am till 10am the queues were manageable.  But it was half term school holidays in France too.

The basic small blue runs (3 choices of routes down) we started on were a bit of a pain because of “moguls” that were created every day by the sheer number of skiers going through one crossroad – and then bumps just after (on two of the options) where you would take off and needed good balance to get through – these didn’t exist at the start of the day but were very difficult to handle at the end of the day. Also hard because of the number of people who congregated at this point / slowed down to get through them.

Tapis wasn’t too bad – reasonable for warming up / cooling down and queues easier to handle – lots of under 8’s to slalom around!

I lacked confidence so stuck to the green and blue runs. The instructor took us on a steep part of a blue run and taught us how to slide so we would know how to get past steeper bits we didn’t feel like skiing! However, I fell and that knocked my confidence.  Quelle wimp!

The weather was brilliant, although no new snow.

Oh I forgot – there was an avalanche but fortunately not on the pistes. My son was on the chair lift and saw it all but Paul and I were having a coffee so missed it!

Really looking forward to being en France again at Easter.  6 weeks to go!

Plants in France

As I’m back in the UK (not for long, as we return to France this Thursday) I tend to look for all things French that I have around me to give me some inspiration for a blog.  Then I remembered some cuttings that have been languishing down the side of the house so they wont be in direct sunlight.  Not much chance of that here, I hear you cry!  imageAnyway back to the cuttings.  There are several but the largest two and the smaller one at the front on the left were taken last year from wild Elder bushes on a little road that leads to my friends house.  These wild Elderberry shrubs seem to grow all over in the hedge rows in our part of France.  My friend has copious amounts growing around her front door and as I have lost so many plants to drought, because we cannot water the garden, I thought that cultivating native/local plants, that do survive hot dry months, would be the best thing to do.  (Although we are thinking of putting in some sort of basic irrigation system once we have an outside tap)

Rose always wants to know what I’m up to when I’m in the garden.  After all it is her domain.  Looks cute doesn’t she.  But, if you are a vole, mouse, baby rabbit or small bird, this is the face that greets you just before you die.  She’s a killer.imageSo the Elder cuttings are doing well.  They will travel to France with us when we next take the car through the tunnel in either October or at Christmas.  The best time to plant them will be then as it will give them a chance to get some roots developed before the hot weather next summer.

The generic name of the Elder is Sambucus.  In France the Elderberry shrub(s) is called “Sureau” or “Les Sureaux”.

And as I’m writing this, the weirdest thing is happening.  A small bug is meandering across the screen of my Mac.  And, it’s behind the glass.  What’s going on.  Anyway back to the blog.

In our garden here in Blighty, I have three black Elderberry shrubs.  They have beautiful deep burgundy leaves and provide much needed colour to our otherwise very green garden at this time of year.

Elder shrubs have been an important resource for a very long time.  From the Greeks to the Romans and the Britons to the Celts, it has a huge range of practical uses. Elderberry wine is said to have curative powers. Taken hot it will help in the early stages of a cold or ‘flu, and is also good for a sore throat. This is due to the viburnic acid contained in the berries which induces perspiration and helps to “bring the cold out”.

Make it simply by stripping off the ripe berries with a fork until you have three gallons of berries. Pour over 2 gallons of boiling water, cover and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. Strain through muslin and press all the juice well out. Measure it and allow 3lbs (1.3kg) of sugar, half an ounce (14g) of ginger and quarter of an ounce (7g) of cloves to each gallon (approx 5 litres). Boil slowly for 20 minutes, strain into a bucket, adding the yeast when it is lukewarm. Pour into demijohns, standing them in a warm place while the yeast works through the sugar. Bottle when it stops. It’s really best to leave it for at least a year, and 2 or 3 years is even better.http://www.whitedragon.org.uk/articles/elder.htm

The Elder flower and berry seems to have been a cure all, from preventing mosquito bites to chilblains and bronchitis.  The berries also make a dye which was used by the Romans to dye their hair black.

The Elder was a mystical plant associated with the spirit world across Europe.  In particular a tree spirit, called the Elder Mother.  To be able to use the magical properties of the tree, prayers and offerings would have to be made otherwise the Elder Mother would not be happy. Because the Elder is very easy to propagate from a cutting and grows so quickly it is therefore associated with regeneration and rebirth.

Because of these spiritual links the Christian church ‘demonized’ the Elder tree, as it did many of the magical plants of the Druids and other pagans, and said that Elder wood was used for the crucifixion cross and that Judas hung himself from an Elder tree. Elder was given a bad name and now had powers of both good and evil. Bringing Elder into the house might cause misfortune or even death to family members and burning the wood meant summoning the Devil.

The word “elder” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “æld” meaning fire.  According to one source this may have been due to the hollowed out stems being used to blow on the fire. The stem has a soft inside that can be easily hollowed out to form a tube. These were then used to make whistles and pipes.

In 1629 a Dr Martin Blochwich who died aged 27 published a reference book titled The Anatomy of the Elder. In this book, which has become a standard reference work, Blochwich described the cultivated plant in three units that occupied a total of 298 pages.

  • Unit 1: The botanic of the elder with an explanation of the origin of the name, as well as where it could be found, its growth and characteristics.
  • Unit 2: In six chapters Blochwich described the preparation of vinegar, chalk, compote, oil, tablets, ointment, juice, syrup, spirit, water, wine and sugar made of elder in detail and gave recipes.
  • Unit 3: Thirty-three chapters about the treatment of diseases that occurred frequently. Recipes have exact descriptions for the production of medicines made of elderflower, elderberry, elder marrow and elder bark, as well as numerous references to the opinions of famous doctors of antiquity and the Middle Ages, which gave the practical doctors during Blockwitz’s day instructions how to use various elder preparations internally and externally. The conditions dealt with include breast and uterine diseases, frostbite, tumours, infectious diseases, diseases of the lungs, stomach, intestines, spleen and gall bladder, mental illnesses, stroke and paralysis, consumption, unclear fever and pain, poisonings, injuries, worm attack and toothache.

Elder continues to be commonly used in herbal remedies and drinks.  It is the flowers and berries that are most used as these are the safest parts of the plant as the bark and leaves are toxic in the wrong dosage.

River Cottage Elderflower cordial

Ingredients

Makes about 2 litres

  • About 25 elderflower heads
  • Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)

Method

Inspect the Elder-flower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the zest of the orange and lemon.

Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the Elder-flowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

Serving suggestions

Add a splash or two, undiluted, to fruit salads or anything with gooseberries or dilute one part cordial to two parts water for fragrant ice lollies.

To find out more about the Elder tree, simple google it.  There’s loads of info out there or grab a copy of Dr Martin Blochwich’s book, available from Amazon.

Oh, and before I completed this blog, Rose had caught yet another vole and my son’s run out to see if he can save it.

Un petit séjour

So this is our petit sejour to ourlittlehouseinfrance.  Set off Friday evening after work and arrived Saturday at about noon.  Sunday was our first full day in France. I woke early to sunlight peeping around the edge of our bedroom shutters and to increasing whimpers from Bella, who doesn’t like waking up in a cage. We put her in a cage at night in France as she would be able to get to our bedroom doors and would wake us up in the night scratching to get in otherwise. Paul and I had already decided we would head to a large vide grenier that was being held in the beautiful Bastide town of Eymet. Although we have been to Eymet before, we’ve never been to a vide grenier there. My friend, Barbara called, she would meet us there.  Eymet is about 19 kilometres from our house. I was prepared with my 2015 vide grenier hit list in my head.

Click the link below to see my pin board vide grenier hit list 2015.

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Barbara has flaming red hair, usually, and so would be, or so we thought, easy to spot in a crowd.  However, what a crowd.  This was no ordinary vide grenier, it was humongous.  Stalls all up the main street (main drag, as Barbara calls it) and then many, many more stalls up side roads and the back of the town.  So with all these people bargain hunting, we didn’t spot Barbara that easily but eventually did see her wandering towards us down one of the side roads once we had already been back to the car with our initial finds.

Aren’t vide greniers a wonderful thing?  Where else could you find people lugging home second hand plastic kids toys, a look of glee on their faces, alongside others carrying huge ancient pieces from old French chateaux. It was a sight to behold.

So here’s what I found at Eymet.  Small vintage bamboo frame mirror, to go with the one I purchased last year.  A small green/clear glass demijohn, again to go with the others I purchased earlier this year.  This one was only three Euros but was very dirty inside and out.  I should have photographed it in its dirty state really.  I soaked it in warm water and washing up liquid and then put rice inside and swirled it around.  This got rid of most of the grime, I then used a bottle brush to finish it off and et voila! all clean.  I also found a lovely green Victorian glass vase and some jewellery.

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So it’s been a short break but it has been a break.  So tea with Barbara at her house.  Walks around her garden and a short chat with her daughter in the States.  Catching up with our lovely English neighbour and her two sons.  She is in the middle of writing a book that she is very kindly letting me read.  I feel honoured.

Callum has been out and about with Nathan and Matt.  Bike rides through the grape vines and woods.  Exciting stuff.  Hubby has been mowing the lawn, I have been sneezing with hay fever.  We’ve had extension plans spread out in front of us deciding where to put TV points, light switches and windows.  Today we’ve taken Bella to the vets for her wormer, filled up with petrol for the long journey back to the UK and purchased a permanent marker to write on Panneau de Chantier which is the sign that we apparently should have displayed outside the house once we gained the planning permission for our extension.  Better late than never!

More photos of the beginnings of the extension and our village in my next blog.  Must dash actually going out tonight to eat and listen to jazz.😋

Je voudrais manger

IMG_4105Well it’s wet and dreary in France at the moment and my mind has turned to thoughts of different eat treates that I would like to make.  Probably because this will pass the time when I can’t get out in the garden because it is so wet.  My husband would beg to differ though, as he has already begun the task of tackling the weeding and cut the grass.

So to the eat treates.  Now this is one that I can only make after Easter Sunday, as I gave up sugar for Lent.  Don’t tell anyone, but I am ashamed to say I did have 3 chocolate biscuits today:(

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Oh I love Bruschetta too and this recipe I can make now.  It reminds me of hot days and a trip we made into the mountains in Catalonia a few years back.  My son was only little and we took a trip to an old farm in the Spanish mountains and they served us bread with fresh garlic, tomatoes and mozzarella.  It was so simple but gorgeous.

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And this yummy jam I will only be able to make in the late summer. We have several varieties of fig trees now and hopefully a good crop of figs this year.

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Now i really am feeling peckish😜