Wednesday, 29 June 2011
We were at Villandry yesterday, and although the gardens are as amazing as ever you can see we have been having a dry time of it: compare this photo with one taken a year ago.
Luckily it was cooler yesterday - "only" 28 degrees C (82F), compared to 38 degrees (just over 100 in the old money) on Monday. Célestine was a lot happier on the road, especially as on Monday we were driving along the Loire River levee with no shade, whereas yesterday we were cruising along the shady Indre river by Azay le Rideau. By comparison, today's predicted high is a perfectly acceptable 23C (73F)
We were threatened with storms and torrential rain yesterday evening. Regular readers will no doubt not be amazed to hear we had one very light shower accompanied by massive thunder and lightning.
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
It's probably a bit late in the season to be writing about clafoutis - my sour cherries were all picked by 5 June this year. Nevertheless, the latest summer edition of Régal ('Feast') features no less than three clafoutis recipes, on pages 60, 76 and a whole page article on the subject on page 114 (which I have shamelessly cribbed for most of the information in this post).
pale fleshed and red skinned, and known locally as guignes.
The original recipe for this cake (in the Limousin, where it comes from, it is referred to as a gâteau) is a type of thick batter poured on the black sour cherries known as griottes noires du Limousin (ie a type of Morello cherry). Once upon a time it was cooked in the bread oven, after the bread was baked. The cherries are not stoned because to do so would result in the loss of a great deal of juice during cooking. The stones also enhance the flavour, by boosting the cherry flavour and adding a woody note. A good clafoutis rises during cooking, but inevitably drops once cool.
The basic ingredients are flour, eggs, sugar, milk, fruit and if you like, a dash of eau-de-vie de cerises. It's quick and easy to prepare, often traditionally using the windfall cherries, and is best eaten warm.
test kitchen before publishing.
Monday, 27 June 2011
Sunday, 26 June 2011
I have spent quite a lot of time at Chenonceau lately, and while Susan is inside the château I usually sit near (or in) Célestine.
Célestine always attracts attention
I rather suspect that the actual mill was on the southern bank associated with the weir, as the map shows a stream that looks suspiciously like a mill race, and usually a weir is necessary to keep water levels high enough to make a mill usable all the year round.
I have tried to discover more about this mill, but the only references on the internet are about a pair of camping sites - either side of the river - which share its name.
It's a nice place for a wander though.
Saturday, 25 June 2011
These wonderfully characterful statues of hunting dogs line the entrance to the Logis Royal in Loches.
They are representations of 15th century hunting dogs of the sort used to chase or bring game down and stand as a testiment to the Valois kings love of hunting.
We visit so often during the season that we now have Cartes Ambassadeurs for the Historic Monuments owned by the département of Indre et Loire (like the Cité Royale de Loches). These cards are an annual fee of €10 and let you in for free or a discount to all 5 sites.
Friday, 24 June 2011
Yeah - I know... it isn't as if I don't already have enough to fill the days...
This project is going to be a very casual one: I am going to start photographing adverts painted on the walls of buildings. I don't intend causing road accidents by standing on the brakes every time I see an ad, but if I have the camera in hand and an ad presents itself, I will take a shot or two.
in Poitiers back in May 2005.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Ever since we started visiting Preuilly the pigeons have been nesting in the attics of the houses surrounding Place des Halles.
Well - from now on they have less choice, because the owner of this building has done something about it.
Last year we had pigeons nesting in the blanked window over our front door, but so far this year they have stayed away. If they come back, I guess I have to put "Operation Chook Wire" into effect.
Talking of bird's nests, the Redstarts have a second brood in the same nest they were using earlier this year. I first noticed them on Sunday evening by the amount of increased bird traffic and then on Monday evening by the cheeping of the chicks.
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
On Sunday I participated in my second outing with the Association de Botanique et de Mycologie de Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine (the local field naturalists group). It was to the Fôret de Preuilly to look at plants that like wet boggy places. I wrote about the first outing I attended here.
The meeting place was the Etang de Ribaloche, which was nearly dry due to the lack of rain (compare with this photo, taken in March 2008). This suited us quite well, as we could walk over the draw down area of mud and get a really good look at a quite surprising number of rarities and interesting plants.
These two old guys were determinedly fishing in what little water remained. They were using worms as bait and said they fished no matter what the level was. I doubt they ever catch anything. A group of field nats can be seen in the background.
One of the special plants we saw - the rare and protected Common Bladderwort Utricularia vulgaris (l'Utriculaire commune). Although called 'Common' this carnivorous aquatic plant is now very rare in the wild.
One of the field nats sweeping for ticks, using a piece of an old monogrammed linen sheet. He caught quite a few in the grass and identified them, but they were very small.
Another of the special plants, Yellow Foxglove Digitalis lutea (la Digitale jaune) also now rare in the wild, growing in a ditch by the side of a track in the forest.
Several people brought flies or photos of flies for me to identify, and I am now apparently la petite australienne (with Marc Fleury requesting others to 'move aside so the little Australian can get a photograph').
I had no idea the Fôret de Preuilly was quite so rich in rarities, but we saw a good dozen rare or unusual plants just in the boggy habitat of the edge of the étangs. There were also some nice butterflies, dragonflies and flies as well as the plants which were the primary focus of the outing.
Monday, 20 June 2011
I know I'm a saddo, but I really like my new doormat. It is generously sized and set neatly into the newly laid terracotta tiles in its own little slot. You can buy rubber backed coir matting like this by the metre in the hardware store here and just cut it to fit. I think it looks terribly smart, and is way better than a mat laid on the surface to slip and slide all over the floor as people walk in and out. This is our most used entry, and a lot of dirt and grit comes in this way. Not any more I hope!
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Our friends Tim and Gaynor very kindly said we should pick the redcurrants at their place in Le Petit Pressigny while they were away if we could make use of them and rather than let them go to waste.
Soft fruit like redcurrants are always so much nicer if you can get them fresh and not transport or refrigerate them. Also our own redcurrant is going to have about a dozen berries in total, so it was a welcome opportunity to supplement our frozen fruit stocks.
About a week ago I went over and picked about 2kg of top quality redcurrants. I made half into compote with the last of my strawberries and some of my cherries which I had frozen earlier. The other half was pureed, pressed through a seive and mixed with a commercial raspberry puree, some icing sugar and a dash of 2009 homemade cherry liqueur. After churning in the icecream machine, this is a fairly sensational sorbet.
I've frozen a little plastic box of each for Tim and Gaynor to enjoy when they are back in Le Petit Pressigny.
Saturday, 18 June 2011
On Tuesday Patrick arrived to joint (grout) the tomettes.
Although they were laid leaving 8mm gaps using modern glue, the joints were quite traditional: chaux blanche (hydraulic white lime) and sand, mixed at a ratio of 1:3.
When Susan and I jointed the tomettes that are under the staircase we used the mothod that is usual with modern tiles: we spread the grout using a rubber spreader and then sponged off the excess. In contast, Patrick made a drier mixture and applied the grout to the gaps using a trowel, forcing the mixture well into the joints before wiping off the excess.
This is a slightly slower process in application (we just poured it on from a bucket) but quicker and cleaner taking off the excess.
After the joints were dry we applied hydrofuge (a water repellant) and the job was done. In just over a week's time Patrick arrives to tile our small dining area - that's only 3 square metres.
After that we will have a bit of a pause while we sort out the kitchen. Then we will start on tiling the laundry and downstairs toilet, before doing the entry hall. This means that we will have the same terracotta tiles for the whole ground floor of the house excepting the salon.
Friday, 17 June 2011
Yesterday we got the boxes for the kitchen mounted. Niall and Antoinette recommended Chris Line, who did their kitchen, so we organised him to fit our units. He arrived at 8.30, and by 2.00 the units were all levelled and screwed in place.
yummy things will be prepped.
Thursday, 16 June 2011
One of the nicest things about this particular walk is the ancient oak trees that line the path. Their feet are in the water and they are old enough to have twisted and heaved themselves into all sorts of picturesque shapes.
They are called le Grèbe huppé in French ('Crested Grebe').
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
After thinking long and hard about what we wanted we eventually settled on IKEA to supply our kitchen cabinets. After looking online at the range available, we went in to see what they looked like 'in the flesh'. I like oak to be a sort of warm tawny yellow colour, and the IKEA kitchen cabinets turned out to be just the right colour. We also tested all the handles we liked for feel and practicality. Then we went away and thought about it some more and refined the arrangement of the cabinets on the plan.
Some days later we returned and spoke to someone in the kitchen department. He went through our list with us and answered some of the questions we had about what combinations were possible. We looked at the range of feet and decided the taller stainless steel ones were for us. We still weren't totally confident that we had thought of everything, nor were we sure we understood exactly what the logistics of purchasing were. In IKEA you have to work out how many hinges, handles and shelves you need, which door design you want and what range of cabinet carcasses. Some items are self service, some are prepared by the staff ready for you to pick up after the checkout. This is a lot to get sorted out when you are buying a whole kitchen. Once again we went away and thought about it. I was actually dreading the day we went to hand over our money and commit, but equally, I wanted it over and done with.
The next day, after deciding that trusting to luck to get an IKEA van, which you can't reserve, was too risky, we hired the SuperU van and appeared, as instructed, at the kitchen department reception desk with our list. Olivier, who was manning the desk, asked us if we had any changes to make to the list. We said 'no', and he said 'excellent - ah I see your sales consultant was Juliette'. I think he must have been her boss, and he clearly recognised that she is a real treasure. He processed our list and gave it back to us, re-ordered so that the items in the self-service section were in order of aisle and shelf position. He showed us which items were currently out of stock. Two would simply come in the next week as a matter of course and we could pick them up from self service. The third we needed to order and we would be contacted once it arrived. He made sure I knew where to find the handles (just by the exit to plantes vertes) and a bag to put them in. After that, he said to pick up a trolley and find our self service items.
Then it was off to the checkout, where we paid and got a number for the despatch department. Once through, we parked the trolleys near the despatch gates and while I waited for our number to come up on the display screen to say our non-self-service items were ready to collect I checked the items on our list against the cash register receipt to make sure we had picked up all the right items.
Meanwhile, Simon went off to bring the van up to the loading bay. By the time our cupboard doors were ready to collect, Simon had already loaded the rest of our purchases. As she passed over our items, the young woman on the desk asked if I had collected my €200 gift. I hadn't, so she made sure I knew which desk to go to, while Simon loaded the last of our kitchen items.
The €200 gift is a voucher card redeemable on our next purchase. We were eligible because we spent more than €2000 on a kitchen. Quite handily, it will cover the one item we have on order.
we can use to protect the kitchen floor
Tuesday, 14 June 2011
As we were driving to Chenonceau yesterday morning (with Australian clients Margaret and Reuben) I commented to Susan that it was odd - we hadn't seen any car club rally this long weekend.
When I arrived back at Célestine after the visit I found that was no longer the case.
Monday, 13 June 2011
We have been busy the last week, and no doubt some of you may have noticed. The great thing is that we are busy this week as well: so busy, in fact, that we don't actually have time to blog about it.
Some of you might know that Célestine has a facebook account (there's a link just to the right).
If you're one of Célestine's friends you may have seen these photos. If you aren't one of Célestine's friends you may find the photos interesting.
NOT amusing - I said interesting.
You can all stop laughing now.
Sunday, 12 June 2011
As mentioned yesterday, on Friday we bought our kitchen.
The whole process started years ago with lots of thinking, but we didn't seriously get underway until March, when we started visiting kitchen shops and getting devis (estimates). After a number of disappontments and a shark attack (you must sign today, indeed...) we decided to seriously look at Ikea. As far as we can tell their kitchens are just as sturdy as anyone else's, but at a lot lower price. There isn't the range of sizes of cabinets or twizzly whirly things that the specialist shops have, but we decided not to compromise quality for gadgets.
The layout has changed many times (this is one our our first efforts), and until about a month ago our plan was still for red lacquer. We then changed tack and went for basic, solid, and real wood fascias, and have settled on oak doors. The range of base units is called Faktum, and the finish is Tidaholm. with Tyda handles and stainless steel legs.
according to Ikea. Note the lack of worktops
But more on that later...
Saturday, 11 June 2011
... when driving in France.
After Thursday's mammoth effort of 16 hours, yesterday we went back to Tours, this time in a hired van. SuperU is willing hire out vans of enormous length and width* (and height, but that is less of an issue) to anyone who turns up with a driving licence.
Like our previous SuperU hires it was extremely painless (and remarkably inexpensive) process, and the van worked well. It sucked up a whole IKEA kitchen like it just wasn't there!
*2 metres (6') longer and 60cm(2') wider than Célestine
Friday, 10 June 2011
We arrived home yesterday (after a 16 hour day with Célestine) to find our new kitchen floor fully laid and looking good. Patrick has achieved more in a day and a half than we would have managed in a week, and with a lot less mess (there isn't a drop of glue on any of the tiles).
but acts as a visual cue as to where we
can't step for the next 24 hours
Having said all that, they are still amazing and will look ace once we have finished them and done the joints.
Thursday, 9 June 2011
Yesterday was a big day for us - we started work on the carrelages de terres cuites on the kitchen floor.
her son Antoine to help because he is young and strong.
new angle grinder. I have all the tools, me...