31 December, 2008

Happy New Year, Bonne Année, Feliz Año, Prosit Neujahr, Gelukkige Nuwejaar, Bliadhna Mhath Ur


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Have a Wonderful, Happy & Prosperous 2009!
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Dreams

I had a weird dream last night about one of my exes, who was a bit nutty! He turned up down here like a bad penny, still moping around - I think at the time he thought it was mysterious and enigmatic to be permanently depressed!

Anyway, we made friends again, and it was very sweet!

Bizarre though, I haven't thought of him in a very long time.

Not Enough Cooks...

Well, I did the catering job last night, and it went well. 6 adults and 9 kids!

They wanted some nibbles to go with aperitifs, and when I took them in the clients introduced me to the first guests, who, it turned out, I knew already! My mum used to be the caretaker for their chateau which had belonged to a friend of ours before they bought it. So, we had a bit of a mini catch up, then I excused myself – it’s not exactly the done thing for the hired help to take over the conversation!!

The first course was Foie Gras – something I have never cooked before in my life, mainly because I can’t stand the stuff! I found some at a really good price in Leclerc, and pan fried it with apples. I burnt myself on the butter that I was frying the apples in, and really hurt myself! Luckily, I managed not to swear as there were kids in the room! Surprisingly (to me!) it turned out really well, and they all really enjoyed it.

Their main course was roast lamb, with garlic, rosemary and thyme, with roast potatoes and Mediterranean vegetables. Oh, and gravy of course! Delicious!

Then the cheese board, then the dessert. They had requested something with fruit and dark chocolate. I don’t do puddings – by which I mean that I don’t cook them. I do, of course, eat them!! It’s not my forte! Anyway, I had this recipe that I’ve always wanted to try, but I made a couple of mistakes with it. I had to tell them not to eat the ends of the box as there was foil stuck in the chocolate! I put too much cream into the filling as well. It was very difficult to cut and serve – the whole thing was a bit of a learning curve. Next time I do it, I will do individual ones – you can buy foil ramekins in the supermarkets, so it would be easy to do the boxes in them, and then just cut the ramekin from the sides and bottom. Voilà – individual, gorgeous puddings!The kids were delightful. The son had his birthday today, and we got talking about Doctor Who and Wallace and Gromit, and what he wanted for his birthday! The daughter was sweet too, and kept asking if there was anything she could do to help! Altogether there were nine kids for dinner (children of guests included!), and they had a different dinner to the adults – something I will not be doing again as it added an enormous amount of extra work. It was Parmentier de Canard – basically a shepherds pie that you make with confit de canard. It was tasty enough – well, the meat was…I really don’t like mashed potatoes! Then, they had chocolate mousse for dessert. Pretty easy really, but two different meals for the same evening is a huge amount of work.
The evening went well on the whole, but I didn’t get home until after midnight. Now, I have to put together a package that they can offer to their summer rental clients – that will take some thinking!



If you would like larger copies of the recipes, just ask and I will email them to you.

27 December, 2008

Phew!

Well, that’s Christmas over for another year! I hope you all had a good one, and that Santa brought you everything you wanted! Thank you for all your Christmas wishes on both of my blogs.
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We had a lovely Christmas. As I said before, it was just the four of us this year – me, Isla, my mum & dad. We were woken up at 7.20am with our first phone call – some friends in New Zealand!! I’ll be charitable and say they buggered up the 12hr time difference! Anyway, none of us actually got back to sleep after that, and we all got up at around half eight which is incredibly early for us on Christmas Day! We all piled onto my mum & dad’s bed so that Isla could open her stocking with all of us, and then had showers and then breakfast.

The present opening always takes a couple of hours!I think everyone got what they wanted. My mum and dad got me a multimedia hard drive. I’ve already got an external hard drive, but I panicked a few weeks ago when it stopped working because I have all my photography on it – luckily it turned out to just be the power cable at fault. So, now I have another one to back it all up on, AND I can put movies on it and plug it straight into the TV and watch! I have all of Dr Who on there at the moment, and Isla has been watching it all! So have I! I think David Tennant is fab as the Doctor and will be sorely missed.

Anyway, back to the point!

Our Christmas dinner went on all day, and we ended up incredibly stuffed! Watched the Doctor Who special and had a lovely evening by the fire!
We woke up on Boxing Day to the best present we could have had…SNOW! We have NEVER had a white Christmas since we have been in France – in fact, we’ve never had snow in December at all! Isla was thrilled, especially because we had friends coming round with their daughter, who is at school with Isla. They played outside for hours, and made a little snowman!

We're off to Bergerac tomorrow to collect my gran from the airport. She's here for New Year and is staying for about ten days.

I could be quite busy over the next week too, as I have a cooking job. So far it's only one night, but I haven't yet met the client and I suppose it all hangs on how impressed they are with the first meal! They want pan fried foie gras - not something I've ever done, but I've found a couple of recipes, and it doesn't look too dificult! I'm sure it will be ok, but I always get butterflies at the start of each job. I doubt myself and my abilities, even though I know I shouldn't! Anyway, if the foie gras recipe turns out well, I'll share it. I'm not sure how easy it'll be for some of you to get it, but never mind!

I may not have time to post again before New Year, so if I don't, have a good one!

25 December, 2008

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Geseënde Kersfees & Nollaig Chridheil!


Merry Christmas Everybody!

20 December, 2008

Mon Beau Sapin

19 December, 2008

We Wish You A Merry Christmas!

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We’ve had a busy day today ! It was the last day of school, and Isla wanted her hair done prettily. I’m rubbish at doing plaits and things in dry hair, so we decided that we wouldn’t bother with her getting the bus, and that I would take her directly to school which meant that we would have another half an hour at home without having to get up any earlier. So I did her a pretty plait with tinsel running through the plait.

We had to get up to the school for 4pm for their little school concert, which was held outside (??) under a covered area at the school. For some strange reason the teacher had decided they would sing We Wish You A Merry Christmas in english, and a couple of Spanish songs, which none of them knew the words to! Forget Britney’s miming – this was a whole school of 8 11yr olds miming!
Anyway, we shivered and watched and listened, and then left sharpish before we froze our bits off!

Isla had a friend, Liberty (she’s English), coming to stay tonight, as her mum was going to a party in the village which had live music on. We weren’t going anyway, for a number of reasons, one of which was that we not only had to pay, we were also expected to bring food. As far as I’m concerned you EITHER pay OR bring food – not both! So, we had made our own plans. Also, I’d have had to take my own drink as well as they would have been serving only wine or beer, neither of which I drink. It would have been 8€ each, totally wasted.

So, we decided to take the girls to see the Christmas lights. We went to Fleurance first to see the lights there. The marketplace in the centre of the town is really old – medieval, but I don’t know which century. They always have a lovely display in the middle of the marketplace, and all around it on the outside there are pretty lights. Then we went to Auch, where they always have spectacular lights. It was cold, but dry, and I took loads of pictures. We had planned to have a McDonalds as a treat, but Liberty’s mum had told us a couple of weeks ago that Liberty doesn’t like McDonalds, so we decided to come home instead and have chicken and chips while we watched a movie. We watched the new version of St Trinians, which was fab!

So all in all, we’ve had a really busy, but fun day! Isla’s now on holiday, so no more early mornings. She’s going shopping on Tuesday with my mum for various bits and pieces, that of course I know nothing about. It’ll give me a chance to finish my wrapping!

14 December, 2008

The Things We Miss

Isn’t it weird the things we miss when we’re not in the UK? For me, most of these things are now available in France eg. Cheddar (Galloway cheddar no less, available in our local Leclerc), English sausages, Marmite, Bisto Gravy, Quavers and Monster Munch, Cadbury’s chocolate, english white bread etc. Most of the supermarkets around here have given in to the influx of Brits in the area, and have small import sections, mainly with English products. I would like to know who decides what to buy though, because a lot of the products seem to me to be daft, but then different people like different things I suppose. We also have a small shop here, in Condom, which sells English products. It is called Churchills – if you live near here, ask me for directions!

What has got me thinking about this is that in the last few weeks I have found it impossible to find rhubarb. Yes, you read right…rhubarb!

I adore rhubarb crumble. It’s one of those staples of winter/spring. We had it in our garden in Scotland, growing like a flipping weed. Try as I might, I have not been able to find it anywhere here, fresh, tinned or jarred. The only place that had it was Churchills. But, a product like that is not cheap anywhere, and I really don’t want to pay 2€ a tin each time I want to make a crumble.

So, I have asked someone I know, who is a bit of a gardening guru! Apparently you can grow it from seed but it takes a very long time. You can also buy the young plants here in nurseries. He has also offered to bring me some back when he comes back from UK in March. So, if I can’t find any here, I will ask him to do that.

Our freezer used to have loads of stewed rhubarb in it, in preparation for crumbles. I might even get adventurous and try different rhubarb recipes!


For my crumble recipe check out my post "Winter Warming".
NB. Photographs not my own work

And the winner is…

Once again we’re back to the X Factor !

I missed it last night, because Isla had gone to a party (that’s for another post) and I had stayed for dinner afterwards, so we didn’t get home until late. When we did get home I couldn’t watch the television in case there was any mention of the winner, and I couldn’t look at any websites that might mention it! I really didn’t want to know until I could see the repeat so that I could watch as though it was live and I was rooting for my favourite.

So, having assiduously avoided anything which might have the slightest thing to do with the X Factor, I sat down this afternoon to watch it.

The right person won! Excellent – my two favourite reality TV programmes don’t have to be boycotted next year, because the people who should have won DID win!

It really makes a change, but maybe since all the furore about telephone voting last year they’ve all tightened up control on it and stopped swindling the public so that no matter what their vote was the only winner would be the program and the person that the judges wanted to win.

Anyway, Alexandra Burke won, and sang a beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. If you want to download it, you can do so
here.

12 December, 2008

Holiday In Japan 24/04/07 - 09/05/07

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11 December, 2008

Our Family Christmas

As you may have guessed by my revamped blog, I love Christmas. I love everything about it.

On the run up to Christmas I enjoy going out and doing the Christmas shopping, working out what to buy for everyone, especially for Isla!

As I have said before, I am almost completely sorted for everyone. We just have to wait for a cheque to clear in the bank to do a small Amazon order (now unfortunately it will need express delivery – grrr) and collect her main present which has been ordered and is being paid for on hp over three months. It’s not that it’s particularly expensive, but we have a store card and it’s interest free for three months, so we might as well do it that way.

We’re going to get our Christmas tree soon – probably on Friday, in order to decorate it at the weekend, or on Wednesday next week. I’ll be home on Tuesday – got to stay an extra day here but it doesn’t really matter – although I expect she won’t expect to have to pay the extra day. Ah well – never mind. Such is life!

Christmas Day is just going to be the four of us this year, which will be nice. It’s not often that happens. My mum and dad will have been married 28 years (?) at Hogmanay, and out of those years I think we’ve had Grandma for Christmas for at the very least, 18 years. She’s going to my Uncle’s this year, but she can’t stay there for New Year, so she’s coming here on the 28th. He views Christmas as for family, and New Year for friends. So, rather than her seeing in the New Year on her lonesome in her flat, she’s coming here for about 10 days I think.

Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the holidays. There’s such anticipation for the next day, especially when you have children around. I’m not wholly convinced Isla still believes in Santa, but I think she likes to pretend she does, either so as not to upset me, or to ensure she still gets the presents! We always light the fire on Christmas Eve and spend the day maybe watching a family movie, doing last minute wrapping, preparing the vegetables and peeling the potatoes for the next day. Isla always gets a present to unwrap on Christmas Eve after her tea, and it’s always a new pair of pyjamas to wear for Christmas night. After she has opened the present, she goes and has a shower, puts on her new jammies and comes back through into the sitting room. Then, we always sit and watch Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, followed by his Father Christmas. They are beautiful and really worth watching. To order, click on the photo below.
Then, as we have done in the last couple of years, we check the Santa tracker on the Internet and on Google Earth so she knows what progress he’s made (he always manages to do the Middle East quite quickly!), and then she goes to bed. Obviously it takes her ages to get to sleep, so we have to make completely sure she is before we do the stocking. That’s the most difficult part of being a parent, no matter what anyone else says – sneaking a crackling (from the wrapping paper!) stocking on to the end of the bed without waking her up! The tooth fairy is a hard one too! She forgot to take the tooth last time!

Anyway, back on topic…

We all go to bed, after the careful stocking placement! Isla’s really good, she doesn’t wake up until at least 8am on Christmas Day – she’s never been one of those kids who gets up at 5am – thank goodness! I couldn’t deal with that!

So, around 8am we wake up and Isla’s all excited to have her stocking bulging with presents – it’s the stocking that used to be mine, and it’s quite big! We all pile on my mum and dad’s bed and she opens it. There’s always a new teddy in there, and loads of other small, silly presents – and some sweeties of course!

Then, after the stocking is done and the bedroom is a complete mess we all have a shower and get dressed. Then, we have a cooked breakfast – we normally make sure we have some English sausages in, and cheddar so we can have cheese on toast. Only after breakfast is completed do we get to do the main presents under the tree. We always do Christmas and birthdays in a big way, so there are loads of presents! We start probably around 10 am, with a glass of Baileys or something typically Christmassy!

It takes ages to get through the presents! While we are doing that, the dinner is normally in the oven. It’s usually a roast of some sort – none of us like turkey so it might be chicken or guinea fowl or pork. The veggies don’t take long, because they were prepared the day before.
When the presents are done, and we’ve tidied up all the paper (we used to have a black lab who loved playing with wrapping paper – I still miss him and he’s been dead 8 years), we relax for a bit, playing with our new gadgets, making up bloody playmobil or whatever! I love watching Isla’s face when she realises that she’s got what she wanted for Christmas, or when she gets a complete surprise!

After we’ve eaten we tend to just veg out for the rest of the day watching films or TV (Dr Who is a must this year!) and making and receiving Christmas phone calls.

Boxing Day can be more relaxed than Christmas Day, but sometimes we have a party and we all drink too much and do silly things like karaoke or charades!

So, you can understand why I look forward to Christmas!

10 December, 2008

An Alphabet Meme


A - Age: 31
B - Band listening to right now: Sandi Thom
C - Career future: RSPCA - I hope!
D - Dad's name: Gordon
E - Easiest person to talk to: Joocey
F - Favorite song: Both Sides Now - Joni Mitchell
G - Gummy Bears or Gummy Worms: Neither - yuck!
H - Hometown: Dumfries
I - Instruments: Flute
J - Job: Photographer, gardener, decorator, chef
K - Kids: 1, Isla
L - Longest car ride ever: About 24hrs
M - Mum's name: Edwina
N - Number of people you slept with: I can't possibly divulge that information - my mum reads this!
O - Odd fact: I'm great at looking after animals, but don't ask me to look after plants - they commit suicide!
P - Phobia[s]: Eggs, needles
Q - Quote: Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice.
R - Reason to smile: Sex and/or chocolate!
S - Song you sang last: Perfectly Clear - Merry Christmas Everybody - Slade, with Isla in the car last night
T - Time you wake up: As late as possible
U - Unknown fact about me: I have a strange vertical little toenail
V - Vegetable you hate: Courgettes
W - Worst habit: Biting my nails, smoking
X - X-rays you've had: Once on my leg when I fell out of the pub, once when I broke my ankle - both times sober!
Y - Yummy food: Chicken, chocolate and ice cream - not together though! Oh, and a good sausage!
Z - Zodiac sign: Gemini
NB. Photograph not my own work

08 December, 2008

Macro Monday

I have taken this post title from Jo at Life's Perfect Pictures. I, too, will hopefully do this (if I remember!) every week.

Rosebud.

07 December, 2008

New Christmassy Templates

I love these templates! I found the link bar (which you will see in icky orange at the top of my page) on someone else's blog tonight, clicked on it and found Christmas templates! Which, given my Christmassy feeling, seemed like the perfect thing to do to my blogs!

Click here if you want your blog to look all Christmassy and groovy! It tells you how to change the template too - it's complicated html stuff, but not that hard.

Beware though, you will lose all your widgets. What I did was to save all the html detail on word, and then copy and paste it back into new gadgets.

06 December, 2008

Playing with The Tudors

I went to The Tudors website here and found a toy to play with! You can make a royal portrait of yourself!

I did it here...Empress Catherine the Magnificent!



and here...Queen Catherine the Excellent

Childhood Days Part 9

When I was probably somewhere around 8 (it wasn’t too long before we left) our septic tank needed emptying.

My mum phoned up the relevant person.

“Hello, my septic tank needs emptying.”

“I am too sorry Madam.”

“Yes, thank you. Can you come and empty it please?”

“I am too sorry Madam, the shit lorry is in the Central Region.”

“You mean there is only one lorry for the whole of Malawi?”

“Yes Madam. And it is in the Central Region.”

“When will it be back in the Southern Region?”

“I do not know Madam, maybe next month.”

“But my septic tank needs to be emptied before next month.”

“We will sort something out Madam.”


A few days later, my mum was sitting on the khonde (veranda) having a drink with her two aunts and my grandma. Suddenly a parade of men walked past. There were about ten men, one with a bucket and one with a pair of long rubber gloves.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“We are going to empty your septic tank Madam,” the chief chappie said.

“With one bucket and a pair of rubber gloves?”

“Yes Madam.”

“What exactly are you going to do with it?” she asked, clearly suspicious.

“We are going to flush each bucketful down the toilet Madam.”

“Go away,” she said quite calmly. “I will wait for the shit lorry.”

Only in Africa!

NB. Photograph not my own work - I don't tend to go around photographing septic tanks!

Faith In Voting

No, this is not going to be anything clever or highbrow about politics and the like – back to the X Factor and I’m A Celebrity! I know, it’s sad, but it’s great winter viewing, especially when you’re confined to someone else’s house.My faith in the British voting public has been restored completely. The odds were high for David (Burger) Van Day to win I’m A Celebrity, and he was the most odious slug I have ever seen on the show. The only good thing about him was that he made good TV, causing arguments and conflict in the jungle. By the time it got down to the final two I really didn’t mind who won – Joe Swash (from Eastenders) or Martina Navratilova (tennis ace – as if you didn’t know!).

Joe Swash won, mainly for being a nice, genuine, down to earth bloke I think. That was the right outcome.Now to the X Factor – you know everything I said the other day?....Diana got voted off tonight! Excellent – no more yelping, scalded cat noises!

The final is down to Alexandra (an amazing singer in the mould of Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton), JLS (a boy band who are actually quite good, despite having Louis as a mentor!), and Eoghan (Eggnog – a 16yr old sweetie).

I predict that in the final next week, Eggnog will be out first, leaving Alexandra and JLS to battle it out in the final round. Alexandra should win.

Better Days.

Well, yesterday did turn out to be better than the day before. The headache still hadn’t completely gone away, but it didn’t come back with quite the same virulence as the day before.

My mum and dad came over to help me out with the water/electricity problem, but luckily I managed to get that sorted. They went off to the market while I sorted out stuff in the house and had a shower. When they came back we all went Christmas shopping. It was a case of having a trolley each, conspiring via text messages to each other, and hiding around aisles trying to stop the other person seeing the contents of the trolleys! It was fun!

So, I’ve got almost all my shopping done. All that’s left is a smallish Amazon order for the odd dvd and a Nintendo DS game!

By the time I went to bed last night, the headache had all but gone. I even managed to listen to my book for a while – the previous night I couldn’t face having any noise in my head!

Isla and I have had quite a quiet day today doing dull Mummy type things! Changing the bed, doing laundry etc! We did have fun making the dinner, which was breaded chicken breast with herby chips. I cut up the chicken and Isla did the egg and breadcrumbing. She loves helping out like that, and I really hope she’ll have a love of cooking as much as my mum and I do.
NB. Photograph not my own work.

05 December, 2008

Oh What A Night


It wasn't my night last night. I had spent the morning cleaning the sitting room of the house I'm staying in - the cleaner hasn't turned up, and I'm sure she's meant to. Anyway, I then went out shopping, and hadn't managed to get any food. By the time I got back I had a lurking headache, so I took some painkillers and had some food.

I helped a friend out over a - if not precisely broken - bruised heart, and had dinner. By the time it came to washing up, I realised I had no water in the house. I went round and checked all the taps and there was nothing, nada, niente. The first main problem was the loo, but I have a fair selection of loos in this house that it wouldn't be a massive problem! The worst thing was the fact that the dogs don't have as much control as one would hope for (little dogs) so I have to pick up messes. All I could think of was how I would wash my hands.

Also, the electricity in the utility room had gone off. My clothes were in the washing machine, which is completely electirc, including the door. I couldn't even get my clothes out, and all my clean knickers were in there. I checked the big fuse box and there was nothing off there.

First things first - I phoned the water company, who assured me that an engineer would phone me back asap, so like a complete divvy I waited up for an hour or so. Should have known better - this is France - they rarely do what they say they will.

Needless to say, by the time I finally made it to (my four poster!!) bed I had a raging migraine, despite the painkillers. I didn't even have enough strength to get up and get a bag of frozen peas for my head.Halfway through the night I heard rattling - there's a litter box in the bedroom and one of the cats had an extremely bad stomach which stank the room out, so I got up, removed the litter box, and then couldn't wash my hands. I found a bottle of Perrier, washed my hands, and went back to bed clutching my head in pain!
This morning was better. The headache was nearly gone. My mum and dad were coming over with a 25l container full of water, so I could at least fluch some of tht down the loos. I had kept one toilet free with a nice full cistern for emergencies, using the old adage "if it's yellow let it mellow..."!

My brain in gear, I set off around the house to find the water meter. The water taps were on - water was, in fact, coming into the house, just not through any of the taps. The builders had water coming through the hoses - it was purely an inside problem.
I solved the utility room mystery - there was a smaller fuse box in there which had obviously tripped at some time during the night. The builders had left a lead plugged into there which must have got wet and tripped it. Sorted. Kind of realised there must be a link between no electricity, no water but couldn't work out where there would be a switch for a pump or anything.

Still no water though. I phoned the owner - I had to wait until a decent time though as she's in UK - it wouldn't really be fair to phone at what would be 7am!

Ah ha - turns out there
is a pump, she told me exactly where the switch was, and it all works beautifully!

And I've had some breakfast today, and I will be having lunch too to chase the migraine away and keep the blood sugar up! I think that was what started it off yesterday, and from there things went from bad to worse.

Well, today is a new day - lets hope it's better than yesterday!

NB. Photographs not my own work

02 December, 2008

Zazzle!

Ok, I admit I have blatantly nicked this idea from Ness over at Drover's Run.

If you go on to Zazzle, you can make your own mouse pad, or buy one that someone else has designed.

I've made one with my perfect dog!Click on the picture to buy the mousepad!

I love it! Wouldn't a custom designed mousepad be great for that member of the family who's a bit of a techno-freak and has everything else they could possibly need?

Buy one! (And no, I'm not being paid to say that!)