Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Private Thoughts .........

..... public audience.

It was almost exactly two years to the day that I started this blog. For two reasons really:

Firstly -
I was interested in the idea of blogs, the wizards available and what you could do with them. That is, how far you could manipulate and tailor the behind the scenes code (although retired, I still retained an interest in IT !).
And I knew from experience that the best way to understand a programme, was to actually use it.
So that is what I did.

Secondly -
Ever so often, throughout my life, I have tried to keep a diary.
I always loved the idea of looking back at them in years to come, and remembering in greater detail what actually happened day to day.
But each attempt never lasted.
Mainly because my thoughts arrive faster than my hand can keep up with, and my writing would deteriorate abominably.

So that is why I set up my blog. As a 'diary' to document my life with Richard and the girls. To enable me to remember my thoughts and reactions to events happening around us.

It never crossed my mind that other people might read it, and when I received comments from the few - I was always astonished yet thrilled!

The trouble is, when you have an unknown audience to your private musings, sooner or later you upset someone. And that was never my intention.

I have therefore decided that this blog has run its course and I will revert to the traditional concept - and go 'electronically private'. Of course, I have to work out how to do it first.....

This blog was great fun though while it lasted!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Not Fair !

My recent visits to the UK, surviving without alcohol, have all had a noticable effect on me. I have lost weight.

Now I am not saying I was obese before, but compared to a local population who are on average substantially slimmer than their UK counterparts, I was carrying some surplus.

And this is always pointed out to you when the doctor you visit regularly for checkups is not only very slim, fit and handsome but also happens to be older than you even though he looks at least 15 years younger!

With our medical records slowly being computerised, Dr Castan is also able to immediately tell me on each visit that I have yet to lose even a kilo......

So today, I drove to my checkup on a high. Ready and waiting to be congratulated that my BMI had dropped quite noticably.

Except he never weighed me.

I am SO SO pissed off.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Student life - French Style

Unbeknownst to LeeLee, I am compiling a cookery book for her to take to university this September.

It contains all the usual recipes that you would expect (rice, pasta, potatoes, etc) - chosen for not only their nutritional value and ability to fill you up, but mainly for their cheapness!

Unbeknownst to me, LeeLee looked for a cookery book at the library when she went to Beziers today.

And she found a French cookery book, written by local students for students.

And she just had to show me when she got home, knowing I would appreciate why she was laughing with surprise!

I shall list the first few recipes for you:
1. Melon & Parma Ham
2. Parma Ham & Mozzarella
3. Roast chicken (bought from a local butcher) & Homemade Garlic Mayonnaise
4. Smoked salmon, Roquette Salad & Wholemeal Bread (lemon wedges on the side)
5. Avocado, Pear & Tomatoes with a Tarragon Dressing
6. Baguette filled with Garlic Roasted Mushrooms & Roquette drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar
7. Toasted Bread topped with Scrambled Egg & Asparagus

Are you laughing yet?! Does this give you an idea as to some of the differences between students in our two countries?!

I kid you not when I tell you that not one child in her class has ever opened a tin of baked beans, and many have never bought a ready made pizza. They buy the bases and then add their own toppings including a wide variety of vegetables. And they all make their own pasta sauces (never from a jar or tin).

I have an awful feeling that LeeLee is going to be a bit disappointed with my cookery book!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

After The Fire

Recently I mentioned the deliberate 'clearing by fire' that was taking place around our village. And I thought you might like an update.

Less than two weeks has passed, and there is very little evidence of the fire unless you look very closely. You can hardly see that it ever took place from the main road now. It is astonishing to me the amount of new green sprouts appearing amongst the burned ash. And that bushes and trees like the holme oak and indeed wild apple and cherry are untouched and blossoming whilst the bramble and unwanted undergrowth has gone. Very clever.
We were on the way back from the Supermarket when I stopped to take some photos. I had bought a packet of thyme for a recipe I am cooking tomorrow because I knew my own plants had not yet recovered from the winter.

Silly me. I must stop thinking and acting like an ├ętranger.

Look at all the wild thyme flourishing along the roadside wall, all of which had survived the recent fire and was in full flower! I grabbed a few handfuls and realised that I had wasted a few euros buying packet stuff.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Fire ! Fire !

We live surrounded by the garrigue. And with the constant fear, during most months of the year, of fire.

However, such a natural habitat has also to be 'managed' and looked after in basic ways.

Fire is a terrible risk but it also has a definite part to play in nature. It clears out the undergrowth that is choking the wild plants (thyme, rosemary, holme oak, etc) and is the trigger for many dormant seeds to sprout.

Also, the more undergrowth that is got rid of, the lower the risk of 'unmanaged' fires spreading - from a carelessly discarded cigarette for example.

For a few years now, the local hunters have been assigned the responsibility of providing the manpower to help with the management of the garrigue.

Each licenced group hunt in a strictly designated area around/near their village. And are given instructions on how and when maintenance needs to be carried out on the garrigue.

This week it has been 'controlled clearing by fire' and every able man in our village was out to ensure it was done safely and kept contained and under control.

And Richard was there to take pictures for me, since I was away!

One area was on the left as you drive into our village, covering an area all the way to the upper road to Taussac.The last two pictures above are from across the valley so that you can see the extent of the burn after the flames had all died down and everything was safe.

Another area was to the right as you enter our village - and where you can just see the little hut (with a red tiled roof) is Cyprian's vegetable garden. The fire surrounded his garden but it was kept safe. They are experts at this!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Just How Friendly Are You?!

.....I hear you ask.

Yep, we had some more friends around this evening for a meal. English and Scottish tonight. It was fun actually talking in just one language for a change.Thank-you Carole, John and Colin for travelling all this way south to see us and for making it such a great evening!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

More Friendly Meals !

Our social life is so busy! Tonight we invited our neighbours (Christel, Eric & Juliette) and village friends (Josette & Cyprian) to dinner and it was great. Lots of food, a very moreish punch (congrats to Richard) and two new desserts that were successful.

LeeLee's boyfriend (Kevin) braved the evening with promises that there were French speakers coming plus Juliette - who fell in love with him at the last party (she is only 4 years old, so no jealousy from his girlfriend!).But she was shy, and it was not until later that she was brave enough to sit with him for a cuddle. It is amazing what an ice-breaker Disney cartoons are!! Even when they are in English.....

In my usual fashion, I decided to plan ahead and make enough of the main course and the puddings to feed two armies - so that I would have enough left over for tomorrow's party.

This retirement lark is SO tiring.
I made a walnut tart and a bread & butter pudding for tonight. Neither of which I had made before.

Since I do not actually like b&b pudding (memories of it from school) I used a slightly different recipe that puts simmered dates between the layers of buttered bread and has NO raisins. I cannot stand raisins and I am the chef. So what I like is all that matters.....

The top is sprinkled with sugar and then caramelized under a grill or (if you do not have a grill) by your husband wielding a flame thrower!

OK. So now I know that it was not a good idea to leave a rim of baking parchment sticking up. How was I to know it would catch alight......