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.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Campervan, book club lunch and some very good news

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post, mainly due to problems with the internet connection, but also going into hospital for a large vein and a few smaller ones to be removed from my right leg and disappearing back to England for three days.
The operation on my leg at Clinic du Littoral went well and I finish my three weeks of anti-coagulant injections tomorrow.  The vein was removed because after a Doppler test it was found to be dead and likely to clot.  It had actually clotted after my mini gastric bypass last year, so I was pleased to get rid of before my next operation, planned for January, although I am considering cancelling that operation.
I went back to England with Andy, friend and worker, to collect a VW Camper from England via the Channel tunnel rather than the easier ferry route, as he doesn’t sail well.  Over 1200 miles altogether and too much driving at once for me, necessitating frequent stops for coffee and fresh air to stay awake for the next hour or so.  The best part was that I got to see three friends - Tricia W, who I hadn’t seen for five years, June, with whom we stayed the first night and finally Tricia H.  We couldn’t remember when we last saw each other it was so long ago.  We also passed by the Olympic stadium, shard, the sculpture thingy and Milennium Dome, none of which I’d seen before except on the television.  I did a bit of essential British shopping too, for items which are either impossible or too expensive to buy in Brittany.  So altogether the trip was very worthwhile in spite of being so shattered and, of course, I ended up with a camper in what appears to be very good condition – thanks to the seller for being so honest about it.
The kittens have had to be renamed as they were wrongly sexed.  The white one is now Claude and the tiny grey one is Grace.  This makes more sense as Claude is about a kilo the heavier and much more outgoing. 

They obviously missed me during my three days in the UK and were very pleased when I walked through the door again.   I seem always to have one or both of them on my lap – they like to be in constant contact and are quite high maintenance on the affection front.
The weather is bizarre.  Snow in Folkestone and Calais on Tuesday.

Wednesday, morning rain freezing as it hit the ground and impossible to walk safely up the slope to do the animals until it had started to thaw.  By contrast, Thursday morning rain, rain and more rain but mild at 10°C at 09.00hrs.  The nurse didn’t arrive early morning to do my anti-coag jab which wasn’t a problem for me as I did it myself, but I worried about her having had an accident as it was so icy.  When she did arrive at lunchtime it turned out that she had skidded on the ice into a ditch along with six other cars and they had to w ait for a tractor to tow them out.  Luckily neither she nor her vehicle was hurt. 

My lung specialist had written to me asking if I would talk to another of her patients, J, about my mini gastric bypass who was being referred to Dr Lechaux for possible surgery.  She had been coming for lunch with me on Thursday but the roads were too dangerous with the ice so we postponed until Friday when the temperature was much milder.  J was very up for the op - unlike me – I knew I had to have it, but didn’t want it.  She seemed very positive about it all and it was good to meet and spend some time with her.  We got on well and hardly stopped talking for the time she was here.  I’m sure she’ll make a great candidate for the op and that she’ll reap the benefits just as I have - I sent an email to Dr Lechaux and she now has an appointment for 5 March.
Saturday morning saw more rain followed by a hailstorm in the middle of the day.  At lunchtime, seven of us from Book Club plus five assorted husbands were having our Christmas lunch at the restaurant, Veronique & Jerome in Lanrivain.  It was excellent – a typical long, French relaxed lunch.  Here is our group with a photo of me alongside taken before I left for the restaurant.

Homemade vegetable soup followed by either salmon marinated with shrimps, and mushrooms served on a bed of salad or crêpe with ricotta cheese, and ratatouille, in a tomato sauce.  I had the salmon which was lovely, and those having the crêpes thoroughly enjoyed them.  Next came roast turkey, carrots, sprouts, roast potatoes and gravy or fillet of haddock with prawns in a sauce served with rice and vegetables.  This was followed by a fantastically moist fruity Christmas pudding with crème Anglaise and a generous slice of chocolate fudge cake, then coffee and little Christmas biscuits which were from a region in the east of France.  There was a delightful impromptu performance on the harp by one of the young daughters of the restaurant and then the still younger daughter played the flute accompanied by Virginie on the harp.  These are the lovely moments which make good memories of an occasion.

Earlier in the week I cooked a gammon joint which I had bought in England for £10 – it was much too big for me living alone so I cut the cooled meat into two and put one half in the freezer for another time. The first day I had it sliced with lettuce from the polytunnel and little plum tomatoes slathered with mayonnaise and alongside sautéed potatoes.  For supper I had it on two slices of hot buttered toast with English mustard.  A couple of days later I had gammon and poached eggs with mushrooms fried in butter and garlic, and for lunch today I had it the way we used to when I was a child with well-seasoned parsley sauce – I added a little mustard to mine -  and broad beans which I’d grown on the field this year and frozen. 

There is still lots left – I may chop it up now and freeze it for putting in a pie with left over chicken or duck after Christmas.

I have saved the best news until last.  I am to be a Grandma for the second time.  My middle child, Oliver and his partner, Emma are expecting a baby on 20 July – congratulations to them. 

I am so excited and happy and how lovely it is to have something so good to look forward to in 2013. 

Three things I like:

1.   Being back in touch with Oli again and now with Emma too.
2.   Having a massage this evening with the woodburner making the room so warm.
3.   Finding cooked crab claws at the fishcounter for lunch tomorrow.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A forgotten November post

I've just found this post still listed as a draft, so am posting it now.  The polytunnel is full of overwintering plants and the bath is now outside too just to make more room for yet more pots

There are still pepper ripening in one of the beds.  I'd obviously missed this one the last time I picked them.  It was very wrinkly but when I cut into it there was another new pepper inside it - bizarre.

These were in the little box I brought back from the field - I love bringing my own produce back down the lane.

November, but there are dandelions in the fields - what is happening to the weather?

Sweet chestnut cases from my field - I have been eating the contents of the decent sized cases - I just love the sweet nutty taste.

A November sunset - there have been some lovely skies in the evening lately.

One of my favourite things to eat is boiled collar bacon.  I brought this back with me from England when I visited in October along with a couple of other joints which are waiting for me in the freezer.  I ate this first meal with sautéed potatoes and homecooked beetroot - scrummy.

And on the field the birds are all facing in one direction this afternoon ...

Here are a crop of fungi which have been growing against the sides of one of the raised veggie beds.

The compost bins are overflowing and waiting to be turned with the digger when it gets here.

I went into Clinic du Littoral in St Brieuc on 23 November to have the large vein in my right leg removed and several other smaller veins on my calf.  As usual the staff were lovely, my room was immaculately clean and the operation went well.  This time, I went in and returned home by taxi for which I had a prescription from the doctor.

Three things I like:
1.   Watching the jays flying over from the oak tree to eat from the bird table.
2.   Rediscovering my slow cooker and making beef casserole and then chicken in cider.
3.   Returning home after my leg vein operation and recovering in familiar surroundings.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Frosty mornings, kittens and poppy seeds

It was really frosty on Thursday morning – the first hard frost of the winter here in St André.  I had to put my wellied foot into the animal water containers to break the thin ice coat on the top.  One of the lovely things about frost though is the way it settles on the plants and makes them look magical.
You can click on any photo to enlarge it.


The lane back home. 
I took a photo of an iced up cobweb and moments later in the early sunshine the frost had melted to little water droplets.  All around it sounded like rain, but it was just the frost on the tree leaves melting and hitting the lane beneath.
I was attracted to the shadows made as the easterly morning sun shone through my neighbour's gates.
Back home the kittens were looking photogenic.

You know that funny thing cats do - looking into the distance or upwards just to make you look for what they're pretending to be looking at ...

I had a large plastic box absolutely bursting with poppy seedheads from various plants over the last two years from my garden and the veggie patch.  This photo only shows a few of them.  I sat for an hour or so and split them all open and knocked the seeds out into brown paper bags to keep for sowing next year.

There were so many different shapes and opening for the seeds to disperse.
Just to show you that I am equipped for all weathers.  Here, on the terrace, you can see my two log trolleys which I keep filled so that I don't have to go far if it's raining, and a sunchair and footrest for catching even the smallest amount of sunshine at this time of year.
Three things I like:
1.   Drifting off to sleep in my reclined chair in front of the woodburner.
2.   Friends, who I haven't seen for a while, 'phoning to say hello.
3.   My elder son, has decided to come to stay for New Year.

Bowls Lunch, Maize Harvest and Autumn Colours

Firstly, I apologise for the changing text through this post.  I can't seem to do anything to make it right.

Yesterday was the Bowls Club Presentation Lunch at La Vallée in St Gilles Vieux Marché.  To drive there I have to pass, but this time stopped to take photos of, the lake at Corlay.  It is so lovely there in the Autumn with the changing leaf colours and the reflections.
































When we arrived at La Vallée we congregated in the bar before going through to our reserved room for a Kir - cassis and champagne, Breton drink - while we waited for our soup. There were about thirty of us I guess and these are a few of the people to my right toasting with the Kir.

The buffet was good and varied, followed by cheeses, apple tart and coffee.  We finished with the prize presentations and speeches.  It was a good event and well organised.

On the way home I took photos of maize being harvested.  It struck me that the ends of the fields look very similar to a cathedral vaulted roof.


I called in to see friends who had their horses on their lawn to avoid using the lawnmower.  Inside their woodburner was doing a grand job.  I left with a bag of beetroot which are cooking as I write this.

I did my usual Saturday early Supermarket trip this morning.  I go early for two reasons. Firstly, to ensure I get a €3 bag of the bread I use for the animals and, secondly, to get some of the €1 bags of veggies.  Today, the bread bag had a huge loaf round loaf in it (more than 30cm/12” across) with slashes in the top which I rescued for me to eat.  It cut beautifully when I sliced a piece to have with my fried bacon, tomato and egg breakfast and was in no way stale.  I just bought two €1 bag of veggies – mushrooms – and when I weighed them on getting home, there were 1005g of the little beauties.  They weren’t soggy or brown or damaged in any way.  I can never quite understand the criteria for selling the €1 polybagfuls.  I do though, transfer the mushrooms to brown paper bags before putting them in the fridge salad drawer to stop them sweating.  I bought a thousand of these brown paper bags on eBay and use them for all sorts of things, taking veggies and eggs round to neighbours and especially collecting and storing seeds.  The other bag contained two heads of Romanesci broccoli which I have never cooked or eaten before.  I shall have some with my supper this evening.

I also bought a net of oranges at full price as I was doing yet another beef casserole and rather liked the juice and flesh of an orange in the last one I made.  The beef I used this morning was basse cote de boeuf which the butcher cut for me from a very large chunk and it was surprisingly lean.  I browned it thoroughly deglazing the frying pan with the remains of a bottle of Merlot, added carrots, onions, garlic, swede, from the garden bay leaves and thyme, salt and pepper, a beef Oxo cube and nearly enough water to cover the contents of the pan.  The delicious cooking smells emanated from the kitchen for at least four and a half hours.  The book - 1000 Years of Annoying the French came in the post from a friend on the Survive France Network.

The sun came out about  midday; I was beginning to think it was going to be a grey day.  I took both kittens into the garden and introduced them to the areas away from the terrace.  So far they haven’t ventured further than the boring, flat, random paving and I thought they needed a bit of an adventure.  I took them half way down the garden and left them on top of a table so they had a good view of everything before venturing down to ground level.  By the time I had got back inside, removed my Crocs and put the kettle on they were back chasing round the settees.

Three things I like:

1.   Finding eggs in the house in the area where the Coucou de Rennes hens live - I thought they'd given up laying permanently.

2.   Watching the kittens sleeping together.

3.   Making and eating my first pumpkin soup of the year.