Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck
Roosting on the gate

2011 - My second year of blogging in Brittany

I felt I would like to share some of the photographs I have taken so far this year and some from other years. I live in a beautiful part of Brittany and just love being here. It's a lovely place to photograph and enjoy being in through all the seasons and hopefully this blog will show you where I live my life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chair and stool, Presents and Roquefort

This morning, when I got into the Land Rover to go and collect a chair and stool I was buying from someone on my local expat forum, I found that the sunroof windows, both of them, have been leaking rain into the vehicle.  Not good.  They did leak in 2006, when I bought it from my roofer, but we siliconed them up and everything’s been fine until now.  After Christmas we’ll have to dig out the old stuff and renew it.  I had to put a tartan rug on the floor so I didn’t spoil the chair and stool, so now that needs washing.  Why does one job always lead to another? 

I am pleased with the purchase.  It looks almost identical, except for colour - yes it is green, not usually my preference but it seems to work -  to my previous chair, but is much more comfortable and slightly higher which is a good thing.

I spent the morning going round the shops and hadn’t realized the time until, while I was browsing shelves at the back of a shop in Rostrenen, the lights went off.  It was, of course, midday, when most shops close for two hours of lunch.  The shop assistants hadn’t realized there was anyone still in the store.  I shouted “Oh!” and one of them arrived and apologized, they then passed me through the checkout at double quick time, so they didn't miss any of their two hour lunch, and released me to the car park.

It was quite a successful morning and I have managed to acquire and wrap some more presents, thank goodness!

It’s drizzled with rain all day on and off and although I hate wet weather, it is so much better than icy, snowy weather for this Christmas travelling week. 

Flick and Andy's daughter came round to wish me a Happy Christmas before they go off into France proper for their Christmas.  I'd forgotten how children talk non-stop and she even managed to wake up Purrdy, who had been asleep, shattered with the whole festive preparations and social whirl she's been involved in.

While shopping I was looking for a cheese fix and found Roquefort which isn't made with cow's milk and so shouldn't have an effect on my lactose intolerance.  For some reason the

label won't load and save round the right way - you get days like that don't you?  Well I have eaten some of it on TUC biscuits, but it is very strong and, under previous conditions, I would have spread butter thickly under the cheese to mellow it a bit.  However, of course, that would defeat the object of using sheep's cheese.   I shall just have to have a very small amount now and then, and keep searching for something that I really enjoy meantime.

Three things I like:

1.   My newish chair and stool.
2.   The  different Christmas choirs on BBC Breakfast each day at the programme end.
3.   Having a long, long chat on the 'phone to an old friend this afternoon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chicken Pie, Kindle and Books

I love it that I'm cooking again after five months of not wanting to eat or cook after my gastric bypass.  Although I will not necessarily eat this, at least I am interested in food enough again to enjoy thinking about, preparing and cooking it.  This evening I made the pie filling for one of the boys' meals over their Christmas stay.  I think I will top one with mashed potato sprinkled with cheese and one with pastry. 

In the pan are pre-fried bacon bits and chicken which I have cut into bite sized pieces, lightly cooked leeks, carrots, one grated garlic clove, a few chopped sprigs of parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper.  For the sauce, I cheat and use two sachets of chicken and leek soup powder which is mixed with a little of the water which the carrots and a little of the water which the leeks were cooked in.  Before I was lactose intolerant I would have added cream as well.  I divided the mixture into the two small casserole dishes and when cool put them in the fridge.  I will take them out and freeze them tomorrow morning.

I have also arranged enough food for the cats over the festive season.

They will also enjoy bits of duck, chicken, gammon, sausages, prawns and salmon I expect, as those are the things I have planned for their humans.

Daisy is already waiting for her treats  - it's a hard life being a cat in my house. 

The Christmas cards are coming in slowly this year - only sixteen so far.  I trimmed my list a year or so ago, as so many cards that I sent and received were from people with whom I had no other contact and it all seemed a bit pointless.  I feel I have got my list right this year and I have decided to give presents to family only.  It's difficult to get presents to friends back in England without spending a fortune on postage and I don't want to start doing presents over here.  I think I prefer to give to friends for birthdays and keep Christmas a family affair.

The children have bought me a Kindle and I have already been downloading free books which sounded worth having.  I am really looking forward to seeing it and have just ordered a blue leather case for it. 

Books are really what I like, but I have so many, far too many the children think and they are not so subtly trying to wean me off the printed page.   I shall never give up buying books, as I think there is something very special about having an actual book in my hands.  I enjoy searching through shelves of secondhand paperbacks in charity shops and would never stop buying in them.  Also some books, are designed to be looked at full size and in original form, such as recipe books, craft books where pictures are heavily relied upon.  I may though, sort through all the shelves here and try to eliminate some of the older, tattier and less beguiling books with a view to passing them on.

Three things I like:

1.   Guacamole with chilli bits.
2.   The rabbit gate has been repaired by my worker - great!
3.   I may soon have a working electric garage door - fingers crossed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas lights, sunrise, spicy red cabbage and Christmas berries

I drove into St Nicolas du Pélem yesterday evening once I'd done the animals.  I wanted to look at the Christmas lights and take some photographs.  They were rubbish lights though, not nearly enough of them, so they looked mean, and while I was there it started to pour with rain again. 

No frost last night, just more rain.  This morning I was up again in time to catch the sky while it was still beautifully coloured.  Unfortunately,once the sun was up we didn't see it again as it rained for the majority of the day. 

My cleaner came to do the final clean before Christmas - rather early as my guests don't arrive until Saturday, but it's my day for cleaning so I have to live with that.

The rabbit run gate latch has broken.  It was stuck together with the frost yesterday morning  and is actually hanging out of its hole, which makes it very  difficult to  close or open the gate.  I hate it when these little things go wrong. The bulb in the light over the stairs has gone over the weekend too and then the bulb in the light to my left in the sitting room died as well - I have loads of lights in here, but even one does make a difference.

I've made the spicy red cabbage for Christmas day lunch - I cooked it on the hob.  It filled the house with the lovely Christmas spice smells of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.   I make it early because it's so much nicer when it's reheated for the meal itself.   The ingredients are red cabbage, apples (dessert or cooking), onions, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, cider vinegar, sugar, butter, salt and pepper.

Shred the cabbage finely, having removed the outside leaves and stalk first.
In a casserole or saucepan make a layer of shredded cabbage, sprinkled with salt and pepper, then a layer of sliced onions and apples with a shake of each of the spices and a little sugar. Continue with these layers until everything is used up. Pour over cider vinegar and add dots of butter on the top.  Put the lid on casserole or saucepan and either cook long and really slowly on hob or put in the oven for a couple of hours. Every now and then give it a good stir.  It freezes well and is even better when reheated.

It's cooked down quite a lot in the photo above - when I put the layers in it reached the top of the pan.  I divided the cooled spicy red cabbage into three and put the thirds in ziptop bags and then into the freezer.  The first time I ate this was at a friend's house for a 5 November bonfire party.  It tastes wonderful with really good pork sausages or a roast pork dinner - try it.

A pair of blackbirds have been landing on my holly bush frequently today and I have a feeling they will not leave many berries once they start eating.  At the moment there are lots this year - it's been a real picture.

Some of the trees around here are covered balls of mistletoe mainly, but not only, on apple trees.  Some of the trees are really tall and I'm not sure what they are, but mistletoe certainly thrives on them in huge clusters.  This photograph was taken last year when there were floods after the snow melted - it is not a lake, it is a field!

Three things I like:

1.   The smell of Christmas spices in the house.
2.   I've found the Christmas stockings which I hang over the fireplace.
3.   Reading a funny comment from my daughter's boyfriend on Facebook.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Storm repairs, roast chicken, cottages and logs

The wind dropped yesterday and there were even spells of sunshine between the very hard rain showers.  My worker came round first thing and put back the two blue logshed doors which had blown off and put some swivel pieces of wood at the top of each door to see it that did the job.  He also did a temporary fix on the double gates, though they will have to be taken off and the hinges sorted properly sometime soon as they have bent out of shape.

Daisy spent the day inside, I don't think she went out at all.  In this photo she was on my laptop table enjoying the fire, but it wasn't long before she was chilling out on the settee in another of her peculiar positions.

While she relaxed I made my usual soup.  I also roasted beetroot at the same time as the veggies for the soup were in the oven.  People keep saying that roasting beetroot gives them a better flavour, but to me there seemed to be little difference, if any, from when I simmer them on the hob.  There were lots of peelings and leaves for the compost bins up on the field.  I always roast the veggies in olive oil now and my local supermarket sells one I like.

The rabbits enjoyed the beetroot tops but the rest should rot down nicely and be ready for topping up the veggie beds in the Spring. The rabbit grassed area is absolutely drenched.  The ground must be so wet that there is nowhere for the new rain to soak into.  The rabbits seem to sit out whether the sun or the rain is on them, they don't seem to care one way or the other, unlike the cats who really don't like the rain at all.

Last night I decided, as frost was forecast, to turn on the storage heater in my bedroom.  It was well-timed as the temperature had certainly dropped during the night.  This thermometer was on the ice covered glass table on the terrace showing a low of -4°C - brrr!

The quagmire on the field was easier to walk across this morning as it was frozen, as were the animal water containers.  I took up the veggie peelings and leaves for the compost also the pan full of ash from the woodburner  which I spread on the top of the current compost bin.  The wood ash is supposed to be good for the compost too as it's a natural source of potassium and other trace elements, and it can be applied directly to the soil.

It's going to be a lovely day today.  I took this photo coming back down the lane from the field which shows the junction in the village.  At the calvaire, the stone cross, I turn right down the lane to my home.

When I got back home, the sitting room was lovely and warm, both from the woodburner and from the kitchen oven in which I had put a chicken and a couple of potatoes to cook when I first came downstairs.  I start it off upside down and then turn it about twenty minutes before the end of roasting to let the breast side take on a golden brown crispy skin the same as the underside.  I then strip the crispy skin off - any fat has cooked away - and eat it while it's still almost to hot to handle, also on my plate was one of the baked potatoes seasoned and with a large piece of butter melted onto the cut sides.  I then wrap the skinned, piping hot, roasted chicken in foil so it stays beautifully moist.  I shall fridge it when it's cool and the meat will be used for a chicken, leek and carrot pie.  The carcass would normally be made into stock for the vegetable soup I make each week, but this stock will be frozen and used for Christmas Day lunch gravy/sauce. 

This week my local supermarket, SuperU, had two bunches of radishes in a bag for €1 which was half price or better, so, as I eat half a bunch every day, I bought two lots and I am dipping them in salt and then eating them as I write.  I love a bargain, and you don't see many over here, compared with the UK, where they are always marking prices down to silly amounts at the end of the day.  I cut the stalks and leaves off each bunch and the rabbits really enjoy those.  Then I top and tail the radishes and store them in a bowl of iced water in the fridge, which ensures that they are really crisp to eat, drying them in a clean tea towel when I want to indulge.

It's really sunny outside this afternoon and I took a few photographs in the garden.  These show my cottages from two directions:

The first door at this end of the cottages is where you enter for the utility and gym. There's also a storage area upstairs. A vine grows along the south-facing wall in the summer months.  

In the second photograph the first door is a one-bedroomed cottage and the middle door leads into the house my daughter and grandson use when they are here, which has two bedrooms.

So I don't have to worrry about getting logs in from the huge logstack when the pile by my woodburner disappears, I have a covered log trolley on the terrace, so I can collect from there.

The logs are all bought in, but the kindling which I use to start the fire, is still wood we saved from when the houses all had new roofs, separating it out from the old slates.  Even after five years of fires, there is still loads of it left and it's lovely and dry, perfect for starting my fire each morning.

Three things I like:

1.   Crispy chicken skin.
2.   Getting 'phone calls from two of my children, one after the other.
3.   Downloading the first books onto my Christmas  present Kindle.  I haven't been given it yet, but have been able to download some books while it is still in England.