Monday, 31 May 2010


The cat stalking in my jungly garden

When it  was  so hot, I did homemade lemonade: a lemon cut into thin slices, a few dried scented rose petals from the garden, a good chunk of ginger cut into pieces, covered with a litre of boiling water. It turns out a delicate pink colour and is so good.

I've been knitting jazzy slipper socks for the Boukhelifa boys, not quite the time of year, but they'll be ready to take over with me when I go in September. I did these with just one ball of Noro Kureyon, and I've done myself a pair too, with a bit more wool than that!

I've been out of the pottery circuit for a while what with my trip to India and then school holidays here, I've now got a batch of things being completed that I either started before I went away or that I have done since. There are a lot of my garden bowls, that not everyone likes but that are very useful for miniature gardens, and putting keys in, and coarse salt in the kitchen, etc. There are a few little mini houses I experimented with, thinking they might be fun for Marius, but upon reflection, too fragile. And a lamp base in the shape of a sort of 1920s a bit art deco lady in a long skirt.  I'm quite pleased with this and now have to set about either making or finding the right sort of shade for it. Pictures will follow this week, nothing was ready to photograph last week.

A brave dachshund confronting the neighbour's cat with double glazed protection!

I have been walking Ellie on the opposite bank of the Odet, in Quimper, the side which is in fact nearer me. LocMaria. Down by the Quimper porcelaine works. You can't walk very far there, but it is quite lovely. There is a large field with three Pie Noire Breton cows, which have been given to the Ville de Quimper by various people, and are part of a conservancy project, first of all of Pie Noire cows, then of the banks of the Odet which they graze. They have their identity cards pinned up with their names, origins, character etc. Then there was a lovely little enclosed garden near where I park, filled with gloriously scented roses and jasmine, open to the public and maintained by the Ville de Quimper. I must say we are very lucky to have so many things at our disposal, paid for and tended by the council. Our local taxes are heavy, true, but at least we see something for them.

My carpenter came at the end of last week and put up a little gate at the head of the stairs down into my garden. He took pity on me and did this for free, including making the gate, so that Ellie could be contained on the terrace. It has changed both of our lives! She can run in and out and play the fool endlessly, I don't have to keep an eye  on her the whole time, I can leave the door open when it's warm, and eat on the terrace and sunbathe. For her, it is almost a substitute for her walk, she is so active, but not for me unfortunately!

I have discovered this year a sort of allium, I think, which must have self seeded from somewhere all over my garden. Wild garlic? Its leaves smell of it. Very pretty white and slightly pink flowers.

And an update on my palm flowers.

Monday, 24 May 2010


Well it was last Friday anyway, but I began this post and then didn't publish it on time...

I have managed to use up most of the veggies in my last week's basket, except for a few new spuds. It makes me get the recipe books out and really work at being creative.

I was invited for lunch on Friday to friends whom I haven't seen for 40 years or more. They live quite near where I pick up my basket, so I went to their place after going to the farm. I took dessert. I made lemon curd on Thursday and got up earlier, or rather trailed around less Friday morning and made some individual lemon meringue tarts.

Last Thursday I took Ellie for a walk in a country lane on the way to the big beach at Tréguennec. It was absolutely lovely, not too hot, amazing how deep in the country one can get in just 10 minutes from where I live. There was a profusion of wild flowers along the sides of the road, lots of bluebells, red campion, cow grass smelling strongly of honey, and a lot of little white flowers of which I don't know the name. There were quite a few butterflies too, including some tiny orange ones that I can't identify on internet. Might be a fritillary of some kind? Photo is a bit blurred.

My palm flowers are opening up and growing enormous. Each flower splits into several branches, and each of those into yet more little branches. They are bright bright yellow. They don't smell of anything at all, the little tiny balls which are the individual flowers are hard, like couscous! Some of the flowers are opening, they are still hard, but form little cups with tiny stamens inside. They attract no bees, but then we don't seem to have bees here anyway.

Looks quite exotic, doesn't it?

I bought three more cherry tomato plants to replace the one that mysteriously died. But I have planted them in front this time, less cats to worry about. The beef tomato on my back terrace seems to be doing OK, but no flowers and certainly no tomatoes.

Last week I took my courage in both hands, picked up a paintbrush, and actually base coated my hallway. This is no mean feat as those who have been following my DIY prowess recently will know. I have gone from working wonders ten years ago to being completely useless, and especially completely lazy now. It has taken me a year to get down to it. Well it's done, and I even went out and bought wall covering (no it's not called wallpaper any longer, it's much smarter than that) and will do that this weekend. I opted for a cheapish solution, not the extremely expensive stuff I found at the end of last year which cost 20€ a metre! The difference between wallpaper and wall covering (in France anyway) is that you don't put glue on the paper but on the wall. So you don't have to get the table out, and glue everywhere, you slap it on the wall, roll the paper up backwards, if you see what I mean, with the back of it showing, and then you don't even have to pre-cut the lengths, you just stick it at the top by the ceiling and let the roll unroll to the bottom and cut it then. Neat huh? Well that's the theory anyway.

The practice has been somewhat less comfortable. It's all very well to say "slap glue on the walls", but it goes everywhere, drips and splatters and yet still there often doesn't seem to be enough along the edges. And the paper tore easily, although that type of paper is not meant to. I don't like the result. I've done a fairly neat job, but what looked silvery grey on the roll looks far more navy on the wall. It darkens the hall a bit, and to me looks a bit too modern. Well it's better than plasterboard with the joints showing, there's always time to cover it up with the classy wall covering if ever I have some money to spare!

It has been so hot today it was hard to do anything. I can't leave doors open because Ellie would escape into the garden and beyond, so it's been a bit hot inside.  I just took her out for a walk at 22h00, a bit cooler, we went around the block, it's still broad daylight! It's going to be even hotter tomorrow, quite unusual for Brittany, they announce 29°C in Brest, which means that here it'll go above 30°. It appears there has been a serious fire in the forests and moors of the Monts d'Arrée 30km north of here. The firemen are still trying to put it out. We often go up there with a picnic. That will be out of the question for the rest of the year I suppose.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


The sun has come out again! I even sat on my terrace yesterday and soaked it up for a quarter of an hour.
Ellie and I went to the big beach just after lunch. I never realized (because Oslo couldn't walk that far) that further on from the first blockhaus the beach is nudist. Ellie was fascinated and went and said hello to all the (two) males tanning their willies, and I had a devil's own job to get her back. Other men lurked in the dunes, fully dressed. Are they spying on those who do take their clothes off, or are they bucking up courage to do it themselves? I don't see why people can't walk their dogs on this part of the beach, so I go ahead and yesterday it was certainly worth it, because I found a "telline" mine. I don't know what tellines are in English, but here is a photo, they are little shiny flat triangular shellfish that you cook like mussels.

I managed to pick up about a kilo, and stopped because I couldn't carry any more in my little plastic bag. Back home, I put them in a bowl with a bit of salt and a lot of water to spit out their sand.

Here is the picture I promised of my flowering palm tree. The flowers are starting to emerge from the slipper like coverings. I'll take another when they are blooming.

Ellie has been chewing her way through most of her toys - things that are meant for much bigger dogs than her. So I threw them away and bought her a rabbit this afternoon with a sort of beeper inside it. At first she was frightened of it, but now they are inseparable (well actually, I think the rabbit could do without Ellie, but she can't do without the rabbit!).  I think I'm going to regret that it beeps...

I have just cooked my tellines. A glass of rosé in the bottom of a pan (I didn't have any white), with a knob of butter and a little salt and pepper, very little. A couple of large cloves of garlic chopped up. When that mixture comes to the boil, chuck in the tellines (or mussels), bring back to the boil, stir, and stop almost immediately or they go rubbery and dry and uninteresting. They are very tiny inside, don't take much cooking. At the end, add a handful of chopped parsley or coriander and eat them with a plate of chips on the side. Mmmmm...!

PS - I'm still losing weight...

Friday, 14 May 2010


It's SO COLD! Back to heating and lighting a fire in the evening. It's been raining constantly the last two days, impossible to walk the dog, she definitely doesn't like getting her feet wet. I can understand that, actually, if you are a dachshund, it's not only your feet that get wet, everything is so near the ground! Ellie has decided to become vegetarian... she pinched an apple out of my shopping basket a couple of days ago, and spent 36 hours nibbling it. Kept her quiet.

I have started collecting my baskets of organic vegetables from the farm. Good value: last week an enormous cauliflower, a bunch of radishes, a bunch of chives, a kilo of new potatoes and a large bunch of blettes (not sure what that is in English... chard? stuff with fairly stringy white stalks and enormous dark green leaves). For 8€. And in the time it took me to say hello to the lady in the office, Ellie had jumped into the back of the car and chewed half of the blette leaves. Needed the iron I suppose. Shame because actually I think the green bit is the only bit worth eating.

I usually pick up my basket on Fridays, but this week  Friday is part of the "pont de l'Ascension", a day the French take off between a religious holiday and the weekend following it). So I went Wednesday instead. This week's basket, a double dose for 15€, contained a kilo of new potates, a kilo of courgettes, a lettuce, a large bunch of spring onions, a bunch of radishes, a bunch of parsley, two bunches of new carrots, and a large bunch of new turnips. I've decided to make Friday a cooking day. I also go to the fishermen's cooperative shop at Loctudy which is very near the farm, and get a few pieces of fish for the week.

I bought some adorable little silicone cupcake molds a week ago. I use either savoury or sweet cake mixture to make little portion-sized cupcakes. This ensures that I don't cheat on the dimensions of a slice. I freeze them in small batches. This morning I made little sponge cakes with vanilla and kumquats. I just had one for dessert, delicious. It's difficult when one lives alone not to eat the same thing for days on end or to end up chucking half of it away. 

The sun has come out. I just took Ellie down the garden, and I noticed that my palm tree, which has grown a good foot in the three years I've been here (the trunk is now about 1m50) has got three enormous flower buds on it. I'm amazed. They look like pale green carpet slippers. Or large flat ears of corn. I'll take a photo tomorrow and another when they flower to show you. The apple tree is in flower, but the wind is getting the better of the blossom. And I had lily of the valley on the first of May (it's traditional to give lily of the valley in France on that day). I picked some more today together with a little red rosebud that had the courage to appear in this awful weather.