Sunday, 26 December 2010


I missed saying "Happy Christmas" to you all. So, did you have a nice Christmas? With good meals and lots of presents?
We did. I fetched Nicholas from Brest airport on Tuesday 21st, his birthday! He was one of the lucky ones to leave London and get to his destination, and on time if you please! We have been having a good, quiet time together, as we always do. With a series of excellent meals, no restaurants, we seem to be able to do better at home. What did you have for Christmas meals?

The temperatures are going up down, up down, we have lovely sunny days (although as usual the weather forecast for the Finistère is awful) but rather cold nights. I have to put thick socks on over my shoes to get across the terrace to the north side of the house, the one that leads to the garden, so that I don't slip and kill myself while peeing the dog.

My load of wood for the winter was delivered last week. All neatly cut into 40cm lengths, split and stacked on a pallet.  Last year it cost me 225€, expensive enough, this year it's 275€. Can't do without unfortunately: a woodburder means wood. That being said, my little house is lovely and warm.

I've finally got photos of my two grandsons wearing the sleeveless pullovers I knitted for them just before going to the States in September. I forgot to take photos of the finished product and had to wait for Cécile to put photos she had taken on her blog.

This week I have made quick and not very expensive curtains to block out the draft that comes up from the veranda into the sitting room in the evenings in winter. There is a sort of archway about 1m70 wide, and a couple of metres high. I bought a steel curtain rod and some rings with clips on them. The things to hold the rod up with are placed too high for me to screw them in, so I stuck them with super glue. Then I bought 6 metres of fleece, really cheap, in a nice off white. I cut the edge and tore it into two pieces 3m long, turned over the top into a pelmet of about 25cm and clipped it to the curtain rings! It trails on the ground and makes sure that drafts don't get under it, and it needs no hemming, it doesn't fray. I'm really pleased with the result, which took me a couple of hours in all, not even. It looks good and is very efficient, in fact, with the woodburner going, the sitting room is almost too warm now!

I can show you my pre-Christmas knitting, now the presents have been given. I did a jacket for Marius, with toggles, a sleeveless pullover for Leif, a bit pink, but I really need to knit pink sometimes and it's not easy having two grandsons. And a sleeveless pullover for my brother Michael. They all seem to have liked their presents!

So, on to food: for Nicholas' birthday we had a bottle of nice champagne, the most enormous snails, then fish, then a sort of pavlova with a difference (meringue, fresh heavy cream and raspberries in a champagne glass. For Christmas Eve, we had a plateau de fruits de mer, which actually almost went wrong, because the fishmonger seemed to have forgotten my order, and gave me all the shellfish unopened, and the fairly large lobster I had ordered turned into two very small ones, but it was all good, and too much, so last night we had the rest of  peeled shrimps, langoustines, a few praires topped with the meat from the tail of one of the lobsters in a cocktail sauce (fresh mayonnaise, a teeny bit of ketchup, tabasco and cognac) in a champagne glass, with a bit of salad at the bottom! For our Christmas lunch we had a glass of champagne with three frozen raspberries in it, a few nibbles, a shoulder of lamb with roast potatoes, roast parsnips and peas, and no dessert, not hungry enough. Before Christmas, Nicholas made me onion soup, lovely. And today he did me a lamb curry which was quite delicious, lovely not to have to cook!

Plateau de fruits de mer before I opened the oysters (there are all sorts of things hiding underneath...)

Lamb curry

 A bit of a blurry photo of onion soup

Salade tière de coquilles St Jacques

 Foie gras maison and champagne (with a bit of saucisson lurking in the middle)...

Lobster cocktail

On Christmas Eve, just after lunch, we took the car and went up into central Finistère, the Monts d'Arrée, to visit the Montagne St Michel and the prehistoric burial chamber (allée couverte) at Mougau Bihan. Nicholas was looking for photo material. There was a bitter wind, but lots of sun, and the Montagne St Michel was still covered in snow. Quite different from the summer painting trips that Yves and I often make.

Mougau Bihan, Finistère

Nicholas at the top of the Montagne St Michel

Ellie at the top of the Montagne St Michel

The path to the top of the Montagne St Michel, Finistère

This afternoon we went for a walk along the banks of the river Odet just outside Quimper, but it was bitterly cold. Then we went to the Anse St Laurent near Concarneau so that Nicholas could photograph old fishing boats that are falling apart on the mud flats. And now it's time to sit in front of the fire as darkness falls and catch up with my blog.


A very Happy New Year to all of you should I not manage to post again before then.

Friday, 3 December 2010


It snowed during the night, but only two centimetres. Pretty this morning, and not too cold.

I made myself the most fantastic soup for supper last night, quite by chance really, adding bits and pieces of not much to not much... I started off with a free range chicken carcass that had quite a bit of meat left on it one way and another. I put it in a large saucepan with water, obviously, an onion, a clove of garlic, some leftover boiled rice and some salt. Boiled it very gently for a few hours. Took the meat off and shared it between Ellie and me. She thought that was a good idea! Put the meat back in, set it to boil, added the zest and juice of one (organic) lemon, and when it was boiling, I created a swirl in the saucepan and added a beaten egg (could have added more). Sort of my version of avgolemono. Then I put cubes of rather stale wholemeal bread into the bottom of a large (thai soup size) bowl, and ladled the soup over it and added freshly ground pepper. It made a very hearty, tasty, comforting supper on a cold winter's evening. Cost me nothing, and when I'd got the whole bowlful inside me, I didn't need anything else.

It always amazes me that people don't make more soup. There are all sorts of soups you can make for next to nothing that are really satisfying. You can even make soup out of vegetable peelings if you wash the vegetables before the peeling... A ham bone, or a couple of marrow bones, or a carcass, or the broth left after a pot au feu, a queue de boeuf or a poule au pot with a few noodles added to it... or a real country soup of split peas and cubes of smoked ham, or cream of lettuce just made with the outside leaves of a salad and a potato and a bit of cream,  I could go on and on. The very best of course is my Mum's poireau pomme de terre! And these are just the simple ones.

I saw a report on the television yesterday about soup, and it showed various people buying cartons of soup at the supermarket. Some are no doubt quite acceptable. But the lady was saying, I don't have time to make soup. Time to make soup? Precisely, it doesn't take time to make soup, you bung everything into a saucepan and the soup makes itself. Especially now you can just whizz it through at the end with a soup mixer. If she'd spent the time she'd taken going to the supermarket and buying the carton actually making soup, she'd probably have saved time.

When I was a child, I didn't much like soup. Not because of the soup really, but because my mother wouldn't let us drink until we'd finished our bowl. It "went against the wind" according to her. One of her quaint beliefs... But to me it was pure torture not being allowed to help it down with water. My children didn't like soup when they were little either. To such an extent that I gave up making it. Now I have soup almost every day in winter, and even in summer, cold soups. So good, and makes my food budget go so much further!

By the way, I found out yesterday that I was actually making a minute amount of money from the adverts on my blog! So I'm going to post more often to increase the traffic if you see what I mean. And I also wanted to say that I don't actually choose the ads, so dont worry if you see sexy Philippino ladies etc., I haven't gone quite barmy! Don't hesitate to click, I may get rich...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

IT's COLD...

Yesterday, Châteaudun, where I used to live, was the coldest place in France with -19° actual temperature and about 50cm of snow. I'm congratulating myself on having moved to the Finistère where last night the temperature went down to -5° and we have had a centimetre or two of snow in the last couple of days. It's chilly but not that chilly. My woodstove works well, my house is small and easy to heat.

I've started feeding the birds. A blackbird has been helping itself to my pyracantha berries. Can you see it? It's orange beak gives it away.

No walks for Ellie who suffers from the cold, you would too if you had to walk with your tummy four centimetres off the ground. So she tears up and down inside the house instead, chasing the cat, skidding on carpets and generally creating havoc. I do miss Oslo's staid behaviour.

I have been knitting like mad, but I can't put pictures yet because that would give the game away. (Now everyone will think they are getting one of my famous handknits for Christmas, which is not true, only two or three people are.) I've also been selling things on Ebay. All good winter-stay-at-home activities. Painting too, the house I mean. I've finished the bit of wall in the sitting room. I ran out of paint ages ago and finally got more. Looks good finished, can't think why I didn't do it before. The join doesn't show at all. And now the ceiling. It's been half done since the kitchen was installed (in other words, since just after I moved in!). Here the join does show, because either the paint has changed colour, or I didn't mix it up enough. The sitting room is a bit of a mess with moved furniture all over the place, but it's very satisfying getting it done eventually and moving everything back into its place. Find some interesting things when you move furniture...

I went to an exhibition last weekend of my friend Jean-Yves Marrec's pastels. My favourite is the one pictured below, but he does a lot of seascapes, and harbours and boats and is very clever.