Monday, 31 December 2007

Réveillon !!!

C'est ici!
***
OK. So we have all been un peu malade, but Nic and I are certainly fine now and LeeLee (although not able to face food) is SURE she is well enough to go to her friend's house to celebrate New Year's Eve.

Poor Richard is still feeling queasy though, but brave enough to face réveillon - La Sesquière style.

So that is what we did. CELEBRATE!

Our neighbours were hosting it at their house again - which is so convenient for us. Only the shortest possible distance to stagger! It was a truly wonderful evening - thank you so much Chrys & Eric!!
***
About eight of us went round in the afternoon to set up the table etc and make as much as possible in advance. Then a quick siesta, wash & brush up and all fifteen of us arrived at 20:30 ready to party.

First drinks, cocktails and canapés (and lots of socialising) for about three hours - and did I mention the dancing and singing? And yes, that is me in the hat. Then the marathon started ......(might have the order slightly wrong in places - but I was drinking all the time! I am sure I have missed some of the courses out as well ?!)

1. Fruits de Mer.Two full platters of raw oysters, raw mussels, raw bulots and cooked large prawns. And aioli made by Josette in the afternoon - she is an expert!!

Don't know about you but unless it is cooked - my view is that it can go and swim in someone else's stomach ... I can testify though that the prawns were super!

Richard took one look and realised his tummy was still very unwell and needed to take things gently!!


2. Smoked salmon & blinis.

3. Foie gras & toast.

4. Brouillard.This is lots of eggs (just collected from under the chickens), butter and a little créme fraiche whisked up together. Then you grate in LOTS of truffles. There was so much you could barely see the egg! This is left to sit for a few hours for the flavours to develop, and then whisked over a bain marie until it starts to thicken.

I have never liked truffles (too musty a smell and taste for me) but these local very fresh truffles gave it an absolutely sublime taste!!

Eric & Chrys keep their own chickens, so store a few eggs with a truffle - to absorb the flavour.
5. Wild, locally found & picked ceps, sautéed in butter with garlic and parsley - yummy as well!

6. Pigeon in a salmis (?) reduced sauce then put on raisin bread.

7. Green beans.

8. Hare, caught locally and then spit roasted over the fire in the sitting room. Bread slices are put underneath to catch the juices, and it is basted regularly throughout. When it is cooked, it is cut into portions, and then special fat is put into a special cone which is heated/melted over the fire and drizzled over the meat. Very tender!

9. Apple and /or lemon sorbets, with Calvados or Grand Marnier.

10. Duck breasts roasted over the open fire.

11. Cheese platter of about six different types.

12. Selection of minature cakes, etc.13. Special epiphany cake with fevres hidden inside - baked in a round and incredibly light and flavoured with orange flower water.

Richard managed to survive the night but ate virtually nothing - did not want to risk bringing it all up again unfortunately.

Nic and I took it slowly, having a little bit of most things. Everyone was struggling, and so a few courses were deferred until tomorrow....more about that tomorrow!

We enjoyed wine throughout, with a sweet one with the foie gras and champagne at the end.

A great time - with wonderful neighbours and friends. Just what it should all be about!

We crossed the road to our beds seven hours later at 3:30am - after promising to be back tomorrow (or is that today?!) for lunch....

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Woeful Weekend

Don't even ask what we have been doing this weekend. It involves throwing up and sitting on the loo. Getting the picture?!
***
First the good news.

After 24 hours of just water, Nic was on the mend and able to eat a slice of toast and marmite .... the traditional British cure all!
***
Now the bad.

It became apparent that I also had got the dreaded tummy bug, swiftly followed by Richard and then finally the full house - LeeLee. Water, water everywhere and all that we are getting!
***
With Nic and Richard sleeping upstairs, and LeeLee and I colonising the sitting room (to be near the fire and the bathroom), we are hibernating!

Friday, 28 December 2007

Good Fun & Bad

One of the best things about this time of the year? The leftovers of course! I LOVE cold turkey and ham ....... and cold stuffing, and cold roast potatoes, and cold bacon rolls, and.....

I could go on. Except cold sprouts of course. They are just for weirdos!

So lunch was fresh baguette, smothered with mayonnaise, filled with turkey and ham. With cold roast potatoes, sprinkled with coarse salt crystals, on the side.

A heart attack in the waiting? I do not care - it's Christmas!!

***
This evening, an American friend (Donna Kelso) came round for dinner. Donna is an abstract artist who lives in our village usually for about 8-9 months of the year, going home for the winter.
This winter she decided to stay put - very brave when your house does not have much heating, and it snows here!

As you can see, Xena is enjoying the holiday season - with all the attention it brings!

***
In the picture, you might have noticed that Nic is looking a bit 'white & spiteful'. Poor thing was up all night being sick. She has picked up a dreaded tummy bug, and is currently going through the '24-hour water diet' cure.

Hope you get better soon, love!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Winter Sun

Having been given a new gadget for Christmas, the only way Richard could try it out was to find an excuse to go out in the car. So this morning he said: 'How about a walk ..... along the beach at Valras-Plage?' The girls groaned 'No way!' so we left them in their pyjamas (it was past mid day!) and scoffing chocolate.

Now, is it a man thing or what, but after two seconds of trying to get a gadget to work .... Richard ALWAYS loses his temper! It seems that having a radio that 'seeks' for a better radio station all the time, is a problem when your new gadget is programmed for specific frequencies!!!

But we finally set off and it worked perfectly. Richard could listen to all his favourite songs that he had copied from the PC to a memory stick, through the car's speakers. The only hiccup was when we went over the hill at Faugère and the music became a bit crackly. But that is Faugère for you....

With the sun shining, it was glorious walking along the beach. Am I making you jealous?! And the sea was sparkling blue and wonderfully warm ... no, I am kidding, we did not go swimming!!

Look closely and you can see the Pyranees in the distance. And a French family in the distance, all sitting on the sand having a picnic. Xena thought she would go and join them at one point. Anyway, you always wondered why we call her Bigfoot...... Chocolate chaud, at a beach side café, at the end of December. Heaven!

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Chocoholics Of The World.....

.... Unite. Around our dining table.
***
Richard's sister Denise and her husband Ross gave us a CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN for Christmas! Did I shout that loud enough?! Is there anyone out there who has not wished for one of these?!

Well - we have one!! And tried it out this evening!!

1. Put it together. HINT: read the manual.2. Fill it up. I managed this without reading the manual....3. Switch it on.4. Level the little feet. HINT: if you over-level them, they unscrew totally.5. Dive in!!6. Get covered with chocolate!7. Think about how you are going to clean it. HINT: read the manual - it specifically says 'get the husband to do it'.
***
With so many presents stacked on the chairs, the cat had problems finding somewhere to rest her weary feet. Ended up hiding under the table!

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Christmas Wishes

The Upex Family would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas, and hope that 2008 will be a happy, healthy and safe year for you and all your family.
Joyeux Noël
Buon Natale
Frohe Weihnachten
Prettige Kerstdagen

We have enjoyed today, spending time with the girls and speaking to and being in contact with all our family and friends around the world.

We have our ups and downs, our worries and our concerns - but we have so much.

Spare a thought and say a prayer tonight for children and adults everywhere, who have so much less.

Christmas Thanks

So many thank-yous but just a few listed here because I had some photos!
***
Thank-you Richard for putting up with me!

Thank-you LeeLee and Nic for being the best daughters any Mum could have. And for my present - a super duper new digital camera! This is the last picture taken on our old one .... by Nic .... and I forgive the 'Happy Birthday' paper. One day Richard will get used to having to wear his glasses - and I DO appreciate that most people would have assumed that gold stars DID mean it was Xmas paper! Thank-you Patrick and Susan for the amazing scarf you gave to Nic. She wore it many different ways, all day long! And thank-you for LeeLee's night shirt - she hardly took it off all day!

Thank-you Lesley and Steve for the shawls and earrings you sent for the girls. They loved the colours and tried them as shawls as well as scarves - showing us how well they went with ALL the clothes in their wardrobes! (they are a bit blurry eyed in some of these photos - it was early in the morning, you know!)

Thank-you Granddad for the boxes of English sweets you sent for the girls - they have eaten a lot of them already!!

Thank-you Carol, John and Holly for this exquisite glass Christmas tree with ornaments that trembled beautifully in the sun. Sorry my picture did not do it justice!Thank-you Denise & Ross, Fiona, Emma, Vasilis & Ioannis for all our presents! LeeLee tells me (as she is on her way up to bed) that she has already finished two of her books. And Nic has been playing on her replacement Nintendo DS all day, curled up on the sofa!Thank-you Granddad Colin for our presents - the girls are deciding which party to wear their new jewellery to, and which chocolate recipes Richard & I are going to try first!

Thank-you Richard for our delicious, moist and tender turkey - even though you could not resist 'smoking' it a bit! A successful Xmas barbecue. A full English Christmas plate of goodies.

Xena saying thank-you for her special dinner - the most alert you will ever see a Sussex Spaniel! Never seen her eat so fast either ....