Archive for category Life in France
We’ve had a lot of rain over the past few days which fell as snow up in the mountains. It’s very early this year. It looks beautiful against today’s blue sky and this view from my house and garden is definitely something I’ll miss.
Still, I can’t wait to get back to England.
I thought I’d join in with the obligatory autumn colour posts even though it’s happening fairly slowly here and I was eating my lunch in the garden earlier this week in beautiful sunshine, however, I’ll have a go.
I don’t have that much in way of a routine these days (hoorah!) but the dog walk every morning is obligatory come rain or shine.
I set off with my phone in my pocket this morning as I mean to do every morning in case I break an ankle or something up the hillside and have to call for help before my dogs take advantage of my prone position and do me damage.
What actually prompted me to take it this morning was I needed to send Mr. Tialys a photo of the quince we have growing on our little tree halfway up the hill. There are only four of them but probably enough to make some quince jelly with. I’m not sure they are ready to pick so had to ask the gardener of the family.
On our way further up the hill we spotted the rarely seen Octobericus Tabbyrean Catticus (or common moggy) up a tree.
Then we noticed how the colours were starting to change on the hills and peaks.
A drop in temperature and some rain and there’ll be snow on those peaks before too much longer.
I finally managed to take a decent photo of a spider’s web with water droplets. Usually they are too busy glinting in the sun and, although that looks pretty, it doesn’t photograph very easily. I know I should have done a bit of ‘housework’ and cleared some of the fallen leaves off but that would be cheating – this is ‘au naturel’ and I’m keeping it real.
Looks a bit like frog spawn.
Back down in the main garden and the figs are still fruiting …..
…….which means the dogs are still foraging which is followed by farting. (sorry but I couldn’t resist the alliteration). I can’t wait until the figs are all gone and my evenings become more pleasantly scented again.
A more conventional autumn colour photo
Our metal chicken – made (though not by me) using recycled oil cans – in his last bit of free-ranging before putting him in a more sheltered spot for the Winter.
Keeping it real again with the garden this time – those weeds really got the better of us this year. I say ‘us’ but, really I mean ‘him’ as I don’t get involved too much in the gardening side of things.
Maybe next year Mr. T. will let me call for help and get a gardening service in. Trouble is, he’s so fussy that, if they do anything that isn’t to his liking, I’ll be to blame.
Another of my occasional Tuesday posts where there are more photos than words (for a change).
I know quite a few of you indulge in crochet and some in crochet mandalas and some of you even put them in hoops.
So, I thought you might like to see some photos of the hoops made by the crocheters of Chalabre and other friendly yarnbombers.
Chalabre is a local village which celebrated its second annual ‘Chalabre en Sérénade’ last week, culminating at the weekend in a riot of singers and musicians from all over the world, love songs delivered from Juliet balconies, artists, designers and much more.
I only took one photo – which was of a hoop in the window of a patisserie – what can I say? I wouldn’t mind but I can’t even find it now anyway.
So, all these photos I have used with the permission of Julie Prochowski who came up with the idea of the hoops and gave it her all.
(Julie is also a very good sewing teacher and crafter extraordinaire. One of those people who seem to be able to turn their hand to anything but I like her anyway 😉)
Doesn’t it look amazing?
Because one or two of you asked for more ‘outdoor’ photos from me and because it was such a beautiful morning, I took my phone with me again on the morning dog walk.
I started off by checking on the peony which is quite old now – it was here when we moved in over 14 years ago but never really seems to get any bigger. I think it’s called a ‘Bowl of Beauty’.
I thought I’d better get some washing out on the way – love seeing white linen flapping in the breeze but shudder at the thought of ironing it – so I usually don’t.
Nearly at the top of the garden now. There’s still some snow left up on those peaks.
His Lordship was with us again.
Usually lots of wild orchids growing but not so many this year. Mr. Tialys says it’s because, due to the dry winter, the badgers would have dug up the bulbs. I still haven’t caught sight of our badgers but there is plenty of fresh evidence in the form of poo pits. I was going to take a photo for you but thought you might prefer one of an orchid.
Listening for something chaseworthy.
How come he’s allowed to roam about freely?
It’s an outrage!
O.K. enough of looking at the view now, let’s go back where breakfast will be served.
Leon leads the way and nobody’s allowed to overtake him otherwise he gets nasty.
Almost there. You can see one of our lilac bushes to the right of the judas tree. I don’t know whether the dogs appreciate the smell of the lilacs but I certainly do. I won’t bring them inside the house though as it’s supposed to be unlucky. No point tempting fate.
Speaking of which, as it’s the 1st of May, the ‘Fête du Travail’ in France today and a public holiday, it’s traditional to give friends and loved ones a muguet or lily of the valley for good luck on this day so here’s a ‘virtual’ one for you.
Just to prove the weather’s gone crazy, I took this photo yesterday – from the car so it’s not brilliant, sorry – but these sunflowers are in full bloom and it’s the end of August. Usually they’ve all finished around the end of July in these parts. That’s what having rain almost every day in June will do I suppose.
This appeared in the storage box thingy next to the pool. I want to move the box further up the garden away from scantily clad bodies but nobody has volunteered to help me. Funny that. Sorry for the blurry photo but I was in and out of there faster than you can say knife (or wasp) but they don’t actually seem to be interested in doing anything else but looking after their nest so might as well let them be.
My old dog Taz seems to be on his last legs – he’s thirteen next month and is now completely blind, almost deaf and seems to be confused about where he is most of the time. He still enjoys his food though so when he suddenly slowed down his usual scarfing down of dog biscuits I was even more worried so I took him to the vets. We have a new vet – she is amazing. She laid down on the floor, on her back, as if she was examining the underside of a car and, without further ado, attacked his icky teeth with what looked like a cross between a pair of pliers and some nutcrackers to remove the tartar caring nothing for the close proximity of randomly snapping jaws. He has an infection which she’s given him antibiotics for but, unfortunately, she also spotted a tumour in his mouth which she says can’t be operated on. I wouldn’t put him through it anyway at his age. She’s given him some tablets which may or may not inhibit the growth of the tumour but we’ll see.
When I told her I think he has some sort of canine dementia, she said she would try oxygenating his brain. I was filled with trepidation as to how he’d react when given a blow through with oxygen and wondered if she’d administer it through his ears or up his nose. I was actually a bit disappointed when she just gave us more tablets. She thought I was very funny for some reason. I’ll give it a couple of weeks to see how he gets on but I’m in ‘preparation mode’.
With the heat this Summer we have, once again had a problem with fleas. Despite costing me the price of a foreign holiday to treat three dogs, five cats and a large house with top of the range flea and tick treatment, those little buggers have returned. Last year the cats were the most badly affected, this year it’s the dogs. They usually have a topical treatment which is supposed to last a month but, three weeks in, I’ve had to give them tablets too. I think I’m on top of the problem now but it’s not been without its moments.
I’ve become paranoid about every little black speck I see and, the other day, I tried to drown a tiny piece of black velcro that had fallen off the strap of my sandal onto my foot. I only realised my mistake when I was studying it floating around in the glass and wondered why it didn’t have any legs.
Then, following advice on the internet, I added some cider vinegar to all the pets’ drinking water and made up a solution in a spray bottle to wet the dogs’ fur with and put some on a cloth to wipe down the cats. I also sprayed rugs and furniture. Only after the bottle was empty and I went to refill it did I realise I’d used red wine vinegar by mistake. I’ve waited a couple of days to tell you this in case I had to report ill effects or drunken capers but, as there was no dancing on the tables or lewd behaviour to report I will assume no harm was done. Although I can’t speak for what the fleas got up to.
I rather like the idea of my Tight Lipped Tuesday series so will take the opportunity of boring the pants off you with my recent trip across the border into Spain (aka Catalonia) with lots of photos and few words (relatively speaking!). Feel free to go and do something more interesting but my blog seems to have become my photo album lately and means I have an online record to refer to – so, a bit selfish really.
Mr. Tialys and I took a break of four days and drove down to the Costa Brava.
Only about 3 hours drive away.
We walked the coastal path to work off all the mussels and Sangria. The water was crystal clear.
So different from the usual perception of this coastline.
Did I mention the Sangria? The waiter raised an eyebrow when we ordered a litre jug between us but we were not deterred.
An interesting looking restaurant.
and an atmospheric interior.
The town of Begur is awash with bougainvillea.
As well as Moorish and Spanish architecture there are neoclassical examples dating from the late 19th century when merchants from here went over to Cuba to make their fortunes and returned to build houses. Lots of vaulted, decorated ceilings and beautiful tiled floors.
I love peeping in at courtyards.
We spotted this lovely view from the road and booked to have cocktails and tapas there in the evening to watch the sun go down.
On the way back home up the coast we stopped at Empuries which, according to Tripadvisor, is one of the finest historic settings in Catalonia.Two cities, one Greek and one Roman, set by the sea at L’Escala on the south of the Bay of Roses, named by Unesco as one of the most beautiful in the world.
The archaeological digs are still going on as I think they’ve only uncovered about 20% of what’s there.
Some of the mosaics they’ve found in the Roman city are almost intact which is amazing when you consider how long they’ve been there.
My quilters eye was drawn to them instantly.
We only stayed away four days as Mlle. Tialys the elder had come over for two weeks to house-sit with her sister for a bit and, as we don’t see enough of her these days, we wanted to spend some time with her too.
Back in France, we took her to our favourite restaurant to say ‘thank you’.
Then the girls and I went across another border to Andorra which is most famous for the skiing but, in Summer is very good for
shopping hiking, cycling, etc. Also, as we do every year now, we went to the free show that Cirque du Soleil put on here throughout July. This year was probably my favourite as the music was so good – usually, it’s a bit more like wailing for atmosphere if you get my drift – and the ‘surely not human’ bendy people put on their usual amazing spectacle.
Plus, it is tax free so it seemed a shame to go home without a bottle of gin or two.
Here’s a brief look at the Cirque du Soleil show – as usual with these shows I have very little idea what the story was about and the sound quality’s not great on this clip but you get the idea. I want those long stripey socks!
Not that tight lipped after all. Sorry.
I think I have said on this blog before that life is too short to stuff a mushroom but, evidently, it’s not too short to paint rose petals with egg white and dust them with sugar.
Why, I hear you ask, were you engaging in the sort of shenanigans usually only bothered with by celebrity chefs and contestants in baking competitions? Because I was making a dessert for a Ruby Wedding celebration is my answer and I thought it appropriate to have red rose petals sprinkled artfully over and around said dessert. Well – they were definitely red to start with but after a brush with the egg white they turned a pinker shade of red. No matter – they were pretty anyway and I move even closer to my Domestic Goddess status .
Some friends of ours were celebrating 40 years of marriage – and look! they’re still laughing.
A mixture of French and Brits were present to help them celebrate and, of course, being a Ruby Wedding Anniversary, there had to be a Ruby Murray on offer. Firstly because you can’t get a decent curry here for love nor money unless you make your own , secondly because we are Brits and we have to have curry occasionally in order to survive and what better excuse than when the name is in both titles? For those not in the know a ‘Ruby Murray’ is cockney rhyming slang for a curry.
The occasion demanded another foray into my new passion for freehand machine embroidery.
Colin is a massive Chelsea Football fan and so I had to portray him wearing something with the crest on it and Jan has got a gorgeous mass of curly hair. They are dog lovers and have a particular soft spot for golden retrievers which they generally find in re-homing centres and so they had to be in the picture too. I must perfect my dog breed representation but you get the drift. I was gratified to see that, despite not having seen my gift at that point, Colin had dressed to match it.
I had a bit of a scare because when I showed my French sewing buddy the embroidery last week she told me that a Ruby Wedding is not 40 years of marriage and, even though I would practically have signed away my house on the certainty that I was right, I did have to Google it when I got home and discovered that the French call it a Ruby Wedding at 35 years – trust them to be different 🙂
So, I didn’t have to undo any stitching and the French friends and neighbours present at the ‘do’ all happily went along with our quaint foreign ways anyway – even sampling the curry!
Anyway, back to the rose petals which I used to adorn a fruit tart – my contribution to the dessert table. If I tell you it was an adaptation of a Nigella Lawson recipe it won’t surprise you to know that it probably didn’t do anybody’s cholesterol levels any favours. Originally a black and white tart – using blackberries and whitecurrants – this was, once again, from her ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ book which is now my go to bible for puddings/cakes and other wickedness having rediscovered it on my bookshelves recently.
I thought the raspberries would look like little rubies – well big ones actually – if you had one that size in a ring or a couple in a pair of earrings you wouldn’t complain would you? **
The digestive biscuit base was ‘enhanced’ by a spoonful of cocoa powder and the mascarpone filling was ‘further enhanced’ by some melted white chocolate, the remainder of which was grated on top (well, most of the remainder, some might have found its way elsewhere 😉 ) Anyway, I think it was good but, by the time I got up to the dessert table, it had all gone.
The dessert table – before
I should have nabbed a slice instead of taking photos 😦 Luckily, I have made it once before, without the cocoa and the white chocolate and I know that version was good and, as it so happens I have a photo of it too, albeit taken on my phone in artificial light.
I only paint rose petals on special occasions 😉
** I was reminded here of one of my favourite one-liners from Only Fools and Horses where Del buys Grandad some strawberries and he complains they’re not very big to which Del replies ‘What do you mean they’re not very big? You wouldn’t want one of those up yer nose for a wart would yer?’
What do you mean they ain't very big? You wouldn't like one of those up yer nose for a wart would ye
WARNING: Photo Heavy and mainly of dogs, cats and plantlife – look away now if you are here for knitting/crochet/sewing/baking.
When Alys at ‘Gardening Nirvana‘ recently compiled a video of the lovely plants in her Californian garden, I commented that we didn’t grow cultivated sweet peas (she has lots and lots) but we do have wild ones up on the hillside and she said she’d be interested in seeing some of my garden so I took my camera with me on the morning dog walk and, even though the wild sweet peas aren’t in bloom yet and we are desperate for rain, here it is now in mid-April in S.W. France in the midi-Pyrenees. Our garden is very large and very steep and terraced. We only plant up the first couple of terraces – the rest we keep brushcut but only lightly so that it is a haven for insects and birds. ((Note, the use of the word ‘we’. It should really be ‘he’)
Sometimes one of the cats accompanies us …….
….and sometimes one of the dogs spots it
He should have paid attention to the notice! I put this here at the top of the garden to prevent people thinking it’s a public footpath although it doesn’t always work.
This Judas Tree has been quite spectacular in previous years but seems to be getting a bit old now and the purple flowers are a bit more sparse. You can see it from Montségur which is on the green mound just underneath the highest snowy peak opposite. The Château de Montségur is famous as the last Cathar stronghold, which fell after a 10 month siege in 1244. A field below the hilltop castle is reputed to be the site where over 200 Cathars were burned alive, having refused to renounce their faith. It’s quite a climb up to the ruins but the views are amazing and it gives me the opportunity, when my heartbeat has returned to normal and I can speak again, to say ‘you can see our house from here’.
Back on our walk – Flo usually leads the way.
I keep Stan on the lead on the way up, and Flo on the way down, otherwise they tend to run off together and make mischief – which usually involves fox poo and a wash down afterward.
Taz is our old boy who usually brings up the rear.
Somebody has made a little monument. I don’t know who as we don’t walk on the public footpath and it is rare to see anybody else up here. The hunters come through in the season but I can’t imagine them faffing about with something like this. I like to think it’s a secret admirer who has found an ‘L’ shaped rock and placed it as a little message to me. Actually, I hope not as that would be beyond creepy.
Although the wild sweet peas aren’t out yet, the wild orchids are.
Back down through the garden gate now and the ball game can begin.
Though somebody is only interested in the newly turned out compost bin contents.
I love this viburnum which, soon, will turn white and look like lots of little snowballs.
Phlox does very well here and this is growing over one of our many dry stone walls.
A beautiful tree peony being photobombed by Flo.
The chooks in their lilac bower. This is just one of many lilacs we have and the scent in the late evenings and early mornings is lovely.
A tiny yellow rose growing up another stone wall on our terrace. It blooms its little heart out for ages and, if we’re lucky, we get a second flush of flowers a bit later on.
Just in case you were worried about Leon.
He made it down the tree and back down the garden safely.
He’s not a year old yet and not a large framed cat and I couldn’t understand why he has such a saggy tum.
After a bit of research I discovered that some cats are genetically prone to something called a ‘primordial pouch’. This is meant to protect their internal organs from damage in a cat fight and also provides extra space to stuff with food in times of shortage. It also gives them more leeway to bend and stretch . That’s something new I’ve learnt and also saved money by not buying special diet food from the vet. So, if you have a cat that looks a bit saggy underneath, this may well be the reason. I wonder if the same principle can be applied to muffin tops.
I’m not fat – it’s my primordial pouch.
Last but not least – the first poppies are opening.
How’s your garden doing at the moment – is it too dry like ours or are you having too much rain? Are there plants you would really like to grow but aren’t suited to your soil or climate? I would love some foxgloves but they wouldn’t grow well here