Thursday, 16 February 2012

Well we finally had a few snowflakes for about half an hour here last Friday! We were beginning to feel a bit left out of things here on the Costa Finistère. It has hardly even frozen, just a little more the last two mornings when we have had -5, but it quickly warmed up to 6° yesterday with a bit of sunshine.

But even here, the weather has forced the price of vegetables up 33%. My usual 3€ went up to 5€15 (I took an extra cabbage as well).

All the talk of snow and ice has got me knitting socks, one pair last week, another finished last night. It's very rewarding, they go quickly, use up odds and ends of wool, and are very comfy to wear.

My new blog on Wordpress is doing well  -  (do go and have a look and sign up if you haven't already) and I get a few new followers every day. But it's extremely time consuming. And they won't let me run ads or affiliate links which I really need in order to earn a bit of money. So rather than leave Wordpress and lose my nascent following, I think I'm going to set up an identical blog here and just copy posts each time.

The sun reached my back, north facing terrace for the first time at midday two days ago, just a corner of it, but it's a sure sign that winter is almost over... and that I shall have to put the power hose over everything soon.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


I went with a large group yesterday evening to La Saigonnaise in Quimper to open the festivities of the Chinese New Year. We had a really good evening, the food was good, and they did a little dragon dance, just for us!

You can just see my blonde fringe behind the nearest lady above!

And today I went to l'Instant T, a nice little restaurant that does lunches (I lunched with Yves there last week) and teas, and had hot chocolate and a slice of gâteau breton au caramel au beurre salé, with another small group! Delicious. This is a photo of their very comfortable tea room:

Sunday, 15 January 2012


I came across this video in another blog I was reading just now. It made me laugh, it also brought tears to my eyes. My blog is refusing to embed videos, you'll have to click on the link, but do, it's worth it.

I looked up Bob Hope's biography. Looking at his facial features I wondered whether he might not be of eastern european origin. No, he was born British (maybe he retained a British passport later, who knows), in London, in 1903. He moved to Bristol before emigrating with his parents to the States in 1908. He died in 2003, a couple of months after his 100th birthday. His name really was Bob Hope. Apt, really.

Monday, 9 January 2012


I went for a blood test this morning. I don't mind blood tests, what I do mind is that in France we have to do them "à jeun", which means without eating anything beforehand. I hate getting up, washing, dressing and going out in the fairly early morning without anything in my stomach. I don't know why this is, I don't think that in England, for instance, you have to have an empty stomach.

Just routine, to get a prescription of my thyroid pill and see what my blood sugar levels and cholesterol are looking like.

It's so mild. I went out in a short sleeved t-shirt (to make the blood sample easier) and a light cardigan this morning, barefooted in thong sandals (Fitflop ones, you know? the ones that are meant to firm up your thighs? they do actually, I hardly ever wear anything else).

I'm keeping to my resolutions - my blog is up to date, the one, and people seem to like it. I have lost over two kilos this week, and I've done some gardening. In fact, I'm going to clear a space tomorrow to plant a row of broad beans.

On Saturday I went to a performance of a version of West Side Story, done on percussion and xylophones, vibraphones etc, with four voices. The music was absolutely fantastic, I didn't realize that that sort of keyboard percussion was so versatile and attractive. And physical, the woman playing at the front of the stage certainly didn't need to go to the gym after her performance, she was all over the place. The whole thing took place behind a sort of metal mesh curtain, upon which was projected the story line in the form of sort of cartoons. It was excellent. What was NOT excellent, however, was the English of the singers, particularly one of the men, whose accent was laughable and spoilt the whole thing. If he's touring France doing an English-language show, shouldn't he have had coaching beforehand? Trouble is, he evidently thought his English was great.

This is a video of the^percussion group, no singers, doing something else, Bach, or an arrangement, but it does show their virtuosity. I'm having no luck embedding it in my text, you'll just have to click on the link. I hope it works, I can't check it before publishing.

Sunday, 8 January 2012


For the past two years, and up to last October, I had been fetching an organic vegatable basket in Loctudy, some 20km or more from Quimper. The vegetables were good quality, my basket cost me 8€ a week, but I had no choice, it was all prepared in advance, and although if you told them you really hated a certain type of vegetable (chard in my case) they'd change it, you always got a lot of root vegetables for instance in winter, that are not as pleasant to use as salad and tomatoes in summer. When the price of fuel went up, it was costing me a ridiculous sum of money just to go and fetch my basket, all the more so as I stopped off at the organic supermarket near the farm and did my weekly shop there - superb quality, but pricey. So I opted out in October.

I was a bit lost at first, I had to make "decisions" about what to buy, instead of just taking what was given to me, and I'd lost the habit. I will not buy vegetables in supermarkets, I try not to buy vegetables that come from outside France. Which meant I had to go to a small vegetable store, with fairly limited choice and which was again, a bit expensive. I still go there sometimes.

Then I heard about a farmer's wife three kms down the road who sells vegetables, not organic vegetables, but fresh. Three times a week, she has a little shop in her barn. You can choose just what you want, she has a good choice, and is sooo cheap!

A couple of days ago, I bought 4 leeks to do in vinaigrette, a huge cooked beetroot, three red onions, a bagful of spinach, nice small leaves, a large bunch of parsley, a green pepper, four or five carrots, all for 3€.

I did cooked oysters with spinach, cream and gruyère that night. Have a look at my new blog project for pictures and the recipe.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


I went down into town on Monday evening to be present when names were drawn out of a hat for our new tournament. For the SECOND time, I drew the champion of the last tournament. I don't know what message the universe is trying to send me... he was there and insisted on playing immediately. Our first game lasted 10 minutes, the second 35 minutes (I'm pretty proud of having withstood so long), and there we are, the tournament is finished for me. We are forty one players, how I manage to draw the champion all the time is a mystery.

I'm doing quite well on resolutions. My new blog is on schedule, which is more than one can say for a lot of people who were in the starting blocks with me, and I have quite a few followers. Have YOU signed up yet? Please do, just click on the follow button at the very top left hand of the page if you find it challenging to fill in a form to follow via email. The result is the same. I really want you to see what I'm doing.

I've lost 2kg since getting back from London (or rather, to be honest, since leaving for London, I don't think I put on much weight over Christmas, we eat nice healthy stuff and I didn't drink a lot).

I took Ellie to the vet yesterday for her vaccination, and she'd put on weight too, so now she's on reduced rations prior to a serious exercise campaign.

And, third resolution, no gardening until today, for the simple reason that I wasn't about to get soaked and catch pneumonia just to keep to a resolution. We had a ray of sunshine this morning (gone now) and I went out and cut back my raspberry canes, and the rather long top shoots of my eleagnus hedge. Took about ten minutes, but that's sufficient !

Monday, 2 January 2012


Haha, it's a bit like Charley Brown and the football (Lucy invites him to kick the football and whips it away at the last moment, but he always gets caught...), making new year's resolutions. We know they'll get whipped away, but we make them anyway.

So mine this year are several (like that maybe one will get to survive?):

1. I'm going to take more care of my body than my mind. It's so much more difficult. But I'll try. Not quite sure how. Yesterday, 1st January, I missed lunch, not so much to avoid calories, rather that I was not hungry. So that one was easy. No outdoor activities (a little walk on the beach for instance) were possible as it chucked it down all day. Today the sun it out, so it's decision time.

2. I'm going to do a minute little something in the garden each day. Even if it's just taking the secateurs down with me when I pee the dog, and lopping the top off something.

3. I've taken on Project 365 on Wordpress, which involves posting once each day on my new blog. If you haven't visited it yet, go and sign up, it may even interest you.

OK, bets are open. Which resolution will last the longest? Which will I drop first?
That's easy, isn't it!

Sunday, 1 January 2012


It's been so long since I last posted, I'll try to do better this year. As I write, the rain is teeming down, but it is really mild, enough to go out without a coat if it weren't for the rain. I've just got back to the Finistère from spending Christmas in London with Nicholas, who spoilt me rotten with good food, comfort and tlc. I nearly didn't get there at all, since my Belgian housesitter was caught up in the Belgian general strike and couldn't make it. Luckily a very kind friend here in Quimper moved into my house with his son to spend Christmas here and look after my animals.

And I had a bit of a problem getting back from London too, my plane arrived 40 minutes late at Charles de Gaulle, I had to wait 35 minutes for my luggage (which one has to reclaim and transfer oneself when leaving from Orly) so I missed my connecting flight, the last one to Quimper that day. Endless queueing, explanations, transfer to hotel for the night, paid by Air France luckily, so having left Nicholas' flat at 10am Thursday, I didn't get home till 11am Friday (Tokyo-Paris would have been quicker!).

No festivities for New Year, just a dozen oysters and a glass of good white wine, followed by duck breast and chips. Quite an acceptable end to the year.

One important thing I did in November was to go down to Paris for the evening/night for Paul McCartney's one and only concert in France 2011, first time I'd seen him live. Nicholas came over from London for the evening to accompany me, very jet set, and we had a very good evening. Sir Paul is very good value, he performed for three whole hours with incredible energy and good humour. His voice hasn't changed, and he is very fit, thanks to a vegetarian diet I expect. But as I said to Nicholas, easier to be a vegetarian when you have a cook to do it for you!

In the last three months, I have been quite active in the creative sector, but I'm only just starting to write it up on my arty blog . Do go there now and sign up to receive blog entries in your email box, like that you can keep up with what I'm doing effortlessly.

I've also started a new blog today, in which I am going to try to keep up a post a day. It's called One French Word . You can sign up for that one too! I need the encouragement of having followers. What I've decided to do is to take a French word a day, explain its meaning and pronunciation, and give a few examples of how to use it. BUT it's going to be a FOOD word, and I shall attach to it a recipe and hopefully a photo. This should be of interest to far more people than just vocabulary and grammar. Tell me how you find it.

Happy New Year !

Saturday, 10 September 2011

HORSES AND FOOD (no connection whatsoever here!)

The headquarters of the horse welfare organization that has been taking care of Shahdlou for the last few years since I left le Mée is now in Daoulas, which is only 30km away from me. Before it was near Lille! So I went up there at the beginning of the week with my cheques to take care of his keep until the end of the year, rather than sending them by post. I was able to meet the person in charge, and had a good chat about how often his feet are done, and how often he sees the dentist. I came away satisfied with the care he is getting. It's just a shame that he's so far away, in Nozay, just above Nantes. An all day journey there and back, for a quarter of an hour of cuddles (he gets tired of cuddling very quickly!).

The first two pictures above I took when I last visited, he is with the very nice farmer who takes care of him. And the last photo was taken by the organization this winter, he's all fuzzy in his winter coat. He is considerably thinner than when he was with me, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and has lost muscle, which is not surprising as he is now 25. Looks good doesn't he?!

So lets catch up on food! I have lots of food pictures to show you, things I have cooked, recipes I have picked up on the web.

Seared beef bento! I marinated a chunky piece of beef (quite a small piece) in grated garlic, grated ginger and Kikkoman soy, and seared it in a very hot heavy frying pan for about a minute on either side. Served topped with fresh red chili, fresh spring onions and toasted sesame, over pink sushi ginger and some raw peas, with on the side cucumber salad with sesame and a chunk of lime. A nice ripe apricot for dessert.

The makings of broad bean and nasturtium salad. Just add vinaigrette and chopped chives!

Live spider crabs

Cooked spider crabs
 In June my neighbour gave me a couple of small spider crabs he had just fished. I cooked them, made a mayonnaise, and had them for my supper!

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of this pastis gascon when it came out of the oven. The recipe? You put two sheets of filo pastry, at right angles to each other in a tart dish. Brush all over with melted butter. Peel core and slice 6 to 8 apples. Slice a couple of apples over the filo. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of demerara sugar (or any sugar actually), and a tablespoon of armagnac (I used Fine de Bretagne, an apple alcohol similar to Calvados, but it should be armagnac). Put another couple of pieces of filo, paint with butter. And so on to three layers of apple. Gather up the filo that is hanging over the edge of the dish, crumple it delicately like tissue paper, add another couple of pieces of filo in the centre to form a rose (no apple should be showing). Brush all this liberally (very liberally) with melted butter. And put it in the oven for half an hour or so. Just be careful the filo only goes golden and does not burn. Serve with a little cream. It's very spectacular and quite easy. And always produces oohs and aahs!

When I pruned my vine in May, I used the leaves to make dolmades, something I have been meaning to do for years, but never had time in Le Mée. My vine, in fact my whole garden, never sees any weedkiller, bug killers, or anything that is not totally natural. So I'm not afraid to use any leaves for food. I first blanched the leaves quickly in boiling water and spread them on a tea towel to dry. I then made a stuffing, with onion, garlic, raw rice, raisins, olive oil, lots of herbs like parsley, thyme, spring onion tops, salt, pepper, and a skinned tomato all pulped up.

I placed a teaspoonful of the mixture in the centre of each leaf and made envelopes (far easier than making spring rolls, the vine leaves are not at all fragile).

And packed them into the bottom of a saucepan with more olive oil and a little chicken stock, about half way up the little packets. Simmered for half an hour.

Quite a lot of trouble, and actually if truth be told, I don't like dolmades all that much, but you get a sense of having something for nothing which is pretty cool!

For one of my summer vegetarian lunch parties, I did a tatin d'aubergine. You cut about three or four aubergines into 0.5cm slices, sprinkle them with salt, and leave for an hour. Rinse very well under running water and squeeze out like a dish rag. Fry in a little olive oil. Brown some pine nuts and sprinkle them in the bottom of a tart dish. Put one sundried tomato in the very middle of the dish, and a layer of aubergine slices overlapping to cover the bottom. Then sundried tomatoes to fill up all the gaps and quite a lot more over the aubergine, then another layer of aubergine slices. You can add squeezed garlic over the aubergine, or dried oregano. DON'T salt. Then top the lot with some ready rolled out puff pastry, tucking in the edges. Oven for half an hour or so, until the pastry is nice and golden. Put a large plate on top of the tart dish and turn the whole thing over so that the pastry is on the bottom and the aubergine on the top. It should be served warm or hot, and should not be turned out until you are ready to eat or the pastry goes soggy. I serve it with green salad. Everyone is always very impressed by this dish, even people who are not fond of aubergine.

I think that's it foodwise.

Some nice fresh salad from the garden
and some raspberries and fraises des bois

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Katharine Hepburn has been my role model for years. Someone less like me I think you couldn't find. But I keep trying in little ways! Those of you who know me well might find one definite similarity, but it wouldn't be politically correct to spell it out here!

This is part of an interview of her conducted in 1979. Thirty years ago... I wish I could get access to the whole interview. Anyone know how I might do that?

Time to catch up on friends and social!

In April, May and June I did quite a few ovs Sunday lunches, where I decided the theme and provided the main course (and sometimes either starter or dessert) and the people who wrote their names down brought wine, cheese, nibbles, dessert or starter. This was a good way to really get to know people, just 5 or 6 around the table. And of course the weather was glorious so most of the time we could eat outside.

I gave a lunch party for part of my pottery group beginning of July (I cut one of the party out of the photo! Sorry Monique!)

My friend Marcelle, my pottery teacher Cléa and her mother, Ariane, also a potter
And Ellie enjoyed the sun and the flowers!

I had another visit from my couchsurfer friend Tim, who upset a martini that I had just made him and did penance by slurping it up off the counter... (I don't think he'll be happy with me for posting this photo, but then maybe not, he has a good sense of humour...),

and a quick visit from Naresh and François-Xavier who are now settled in Normandy (after Delhi, quite a change in climate and the view out of the window).

My brother Steve came for a couple of days and treated me to not one, but two Michelin starred restaurants! Both were excellent. One in Loctudy, the other Pont Aven. The weather was lovely and we were able to eat outside on the terrace at home (when we ate in, which was not much!), but I only managed to get one very bad photo to prove he was here.

Can you see, he's having toast and Bovril for breakfast!

Svenja, whom I met last year in India, and again in Geneva when we had a reunion of some of the group who had been at the ayurveda boot camp together, came from Berlin for a week in August, her first time in Brittany:

And Yves was here for almost two weeks in August, a record! The weather was not magnificent, but we did manage to get out into central Finistère (Pont Coblant, montagne St Michel (not to be confused with Mont St Michel) and the burial chamber at Castell Ruffell, Coat Pincoat, just above Roudouellec, Finistère, of which a picture below, but when we went it had been nicely cleared and there was grass all around. Yves did a really good drawing of this.

We also went to the Chapelle de Beuzec a lot,

a really beautiful spot and quite quiet compared to the rest of the area, with a chapel and a calvaire, and nearby a piece of land for sale that I would really really like to buy (if I won the loto!). There is also a holy well (quite a long way from the chapel) which has been renovated very successfully.

Yves did another good drawing of this. I say "we" paint and draw, but in fact I walk the dog most of the time. I'm not good at drawing, and my sort of painting has to be done in my studio, not outside. Still, I have gathered lots of material to work on at home this winter.

Monday, 5 September 2011


I haven't posted for months. I'm sorry. The whole point of a blog is to post regularly. The whole summer has gone by. Lots has happened. I'll catch up subject by subject.

First of all, I've started a new blog just for creative stuff, please go and have a look, and sign up in the column on the right to receive it regularly. The more people sign up, the more visible I am, so please do it (that includes family and friends PLEASE!). Do the same for this blog. It's not the same as "stuff" in your mailbox, it's ME, you'll get a little bit of my life every morning!

Let start with the garden.

Have a look at this link. It's the most beautiful film of a rose blooming.

With the rain we had in July and August, the garden has taken on jungle-esque proportions. My neighbour's son came round in June to cut back my apple tree which had grown so large as to be shading a good half of the garden and cutting out all the morning sun. Not a good month for dealing with trees, but when you have someone on hand to help you, you don't ask them to come back in December! To begin with he was very careful where the branches fell, but it soon became impossible (it is a very large tree) and my lovely little flowerbed underneath was crushed to pieces. And the pile of branches in the middle of my garden enormous. He did offer to get rid of them, but I wanted to get as much firewood as I could from the pile. Two months of rain later, the pile has only just disappeared (well not disappeared really, I threw it down a level to be burned soon), but I do have a growing stack of little logs and kindling wood! (it is the gry green tree in the middle in the photo below)

Although it has been very pretty in Spring, it is at least 40 years old and produces loads of apples that fall off early in their career and rot on the ground. So maybe cutting it back will also do the tree some good.

My veg garden has benefitted from the rain of course and my water bill won't have grown as large this summer as it did in the spring, but the rain has also revived all the slugs and snails that I didn't see earlier on and they have wreaked havoc just about everywhere. They completely ate all the salads that were almost ready, baby courgettes, pumpkins, beans, strawberries, you name it...

But I have managed to harvest quite a lot of stuff. A few blueberries (the birds here don't seem to notice them, or maybe there were too few for them to bother!), lots of raspberries (which are now preparing a second crop), a steady trickle of strawberries. Cherry tomatoes galore, and a few large old variety tomatoes which ripened early. A few courgettes, lots of broad beans  artichokes, rhubarb, and yesterday I harvested my garlic, not spectacular, but enough to keep me going for about 6 months... The rest was still to come: potimarrons, one spaghetti marrow, aubergines, peppers, beans and tons of tomatoes. And one very large apple from my new espalier apple trees!

But, then, mid August, with all the wet and mist (and, I have to say, I did plant things much too close together) all my tomatoes, literally tens of kilos of them, began to blacken and rot and I had to pull them all out. I was stricken, after all the work I had put into them, and the promise of tomatoes all summer and autumn. None left. My aubergines never got pollinated, there are few bees around here at the best of times, but what there were must have drowned in the deluge. The weeds overgrew my strawberries and it was too wet to go and pull them out. Of my row of french beans, only two plants produced, so I had about two succulent helpings. You wonder whether it was all worthwhile...

All my terrace plants suffered terribly from the heat in the spring, no amount of watering seemed to really satisfy them (I have a lot of little trees, a crab apple, buddleias, maples and bamboos), and although the rain has done them good, they are not looking on fine form and I shall have to plant some of them out in the garden, goodness knows where, in the autumn to resuscitate them.

So there we are, that is the "gardening" bit of my blog brought up to date. I'll catch up on another subject tomorrow!

Saturday, 21 May 2011


The lovely weather continues, I got quite burnt last Thursday when I gave a stone carving lesson all day on the terrace. My shoulders and neck are still sore. I'm very pleased with the works of art produced, really surprising, as they always are, since one has no way of knowing what's inside the stone and what the effect will be. Here are pictures of the best piece, a fish jumping out of a piece of rock, the only one that was completely finished. Click on the picture to get a close up view. I am giving another class next Saturday.

The week before last I had the visit of an English couchsurfer for three days. We knew each other from chatting on a couchsurfing forum, and as we had foreseen, we got on really well. And he very kindly finished painting my sitting room ceiling (a major step in the right direction for those who know my house!).

And here is a picture of the back of the sleeveless pullover I have knitted for Cécile (she requested it in winter, it's now summer as you will have realised... luckily, winter comes round again!). The front is plainer. It's a bit of a funny shape, and too short, but never mind, it'll keep the bit of her it covers nice and warm, it's cashmere (mostly). I'll send it to England, Cécile, since you are going soon, I'll save on postage!

My garden is growing, but needs a lot of water. I've planted melons, as I'm convinced the good weather is going to last until September. October, why not! I pick a handful of strawberries each day (but the blackbirds are having a feastday with them), and I have a few wild strawberries almost ready. Raspberries just have to ripen. My runner beans have not worked at all, but my French beans came up almost as soon as I planted them. Tomatoes, salads, artichokes, coriander, new potatoes, broad beans, I'm really enjoying the fruits of my labour, and just wandering around looking at it all grow. Here are a few photos.

First plum tomatoes

First baby potimarron

Very proud of this - first artichoke!

First blueberries

Coriander and new potatoes
First courgette

Michael and Steve, we were talking last time I was in Dorset about how Daddy would have loved new technology, computers, digital cameras, etc. I was mowing the other day, I have a little tiny Flymo - do you remember how excited he was when he first bought a Flymo? And when he got a microwave? He microwaved everything in sight! Sad he didn't live to see Facebook and Skype!

I've just returned from visiting a few Trait Breton carthorses and their foals. What beautiful animals. But, boy was it hot again, out in the middle of a field mid afternoon.