Archive for category Life in France
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
**Warning: Heavy with craft photos and dog related text but all for a good cause.
This is Taz my ‘who knows what mixture of breeds?’ dog – we have had him since he was a pup.
He’s getting on now and, at eleven years old, he’s going grey, losing his hair and getting a bit grumpy. Just like a lot of humans really. Much as I love him, he is a bit of a pain in his dotage. He spends his days foraging for food, grumbling at the cats, lying across the kitchen floor in front of the fridge/cooker/cupboard/wherever you need to get to and bumping into things as his sight is going. He spends his evenings sleeping, snoring and ‘scenting’ the air with the gaseous results of his aforementioned foraging and his nights wandering the corridor and aimlessly scraping at doors before sinking into a deep sleep.
I can only imagine then, what it must be like to care for 30 old dogs in your own home. I don’t think I could do it but, luckily, there are people that can. Mike and Leeanne came to France from the U.K. and have somehow found themselves dedicated to the care and comfort of elderly and disabled dogs by starting the Twilight Retirement Home for Dogs or, as we are in France, Twilight Maison de Retraite pour les chiens you can read all about them here .
This Saturday we are holding a fundraising event for Twilight and, although I don’t do craft fairs as a rule, I’m going along with some of my wares to see if we can’t help with the food, extensive vet bills and general running costs of caring for so many ‘retired’ dogs all in one place that Mike and Leanne face.
Of course, I will have my dog collars for sale….
Some dog bandanas……
some simple tote bags (who let the cats in?)……..
some more cats disguised as angels……
a couple of knitted dog coats…….
a few key fobs made with the leftover dog collar materials……
the results of my recent foray into needlecases……
some mini poufs that have been taking up space in my workroom for a little while…….
likewise some doorstops……
four or five padded message boards……
a set of coasters…..
a rather fetching linen handbag I made which has Eiffel Towers on the lining fabric – très chic …..
partridge in a pear tree an owl with a Christmas tree
I just hope there will be people looking to buy some stocking fillers and I don’t come home with all of it . I usually do my part by buying home made cakes (especially the ginger cake and Christmas pudding as they aren’t easy to come by here and Debbie makes some scrummy ones), the bottle tombola (the bottles are generally full of something alcoholic) , some second hand books and whatever else takes my fancy.
I can always go and fling myself around in Zumba next Saturday but I’ll leave the last words to Mike and Leeanne to explain how Twilight came about.
We started Twilight in the summer of 2009, in memory of losing our Kizzy, and needing to find a friend for our elderly but happy retriever, Teg.
It became evident, searching the pounds and refuges, that if you were an old
dog, life was not always so good, and your ending might be premature and/or without dignity.
So now we offer limited places for elderly dogs who are lost, abandoned or bereaved of their owners.
We are not a formal refuge, just mere volunteers with the time, space and love to share our calm home with the dogs ?en famille?. Twilight, La Maison de Retraite pour Les Chiens, the old doggies home.
As I sit here typing this short post and listening to my dogs expelling the noxious gases that have resulted from them eating all the fallen plums in the garden, I find myself reflecting on how the townie I once was could have ended up in rural France with too many dogs, cats and chickens.
You may remember the cockerel, Darth. I included a bit about him in a previous post when I was researching humane ways to put him out of his misery as he kept falling over and having problems getting up again. Having rejected the suggested methods, one of which was putting him in a bucket attached to the exhaust pipe of the car, I decided to let nature take its course and see what happened. Fifteen months later he is still strutting around and making a racket – maybe somebody tipped him off to what I was thinking.
Mlle. Tialys the Younger phoned me when I was at my friend’s house the other day because, on one of her rare trips into the light of day, she noticed Darth was falling over again. When I got home I had a look at him and realised his spurs had grown so long he had to perform a ridiculous high step to get one leg past the other without impaling himself on them. I Googled. I put on my waterproof walking trousers in case of blood or chicken poo, armed myself with a thick towel, virginal garden gloves (Mr. Tialys buys me them in the hope that I might actually do some gardening), the dogs’ nail clippers, some kitchen roll, some disinfectant and one of these –
Well, my one wasn’t cut open and didn’t have butter on it but a baked potato it was.
As directed on YouTube, I stuck the overgrown spurs of my astounded cockerel into hot potatoes (I took two up with me – one for each leg), patiently waited a few minutes and then had a bit of a twist with the nail clippers. I should have had pliers but couldn’t find them in Mr. T’s fiendishly disorganised shed. I didn’t think anything was going to happen but then, suddenly, I felt it give and I got myself a little trophy.
(cotton reel for scale)
This procedure exposed a couple of little bloody stumps which I squirted with animal disinfectant and, almost immediately, he appeared much more comfortable.
If you had known me back in the day, you would never, ever have believed this was the sort of thing I would end up doing.
Ain’t life funny?
A short post (for me) as I’m off on my holiday soon and I didn’t want you to think I’d given up blogging as I gave up Facebook this week (not difficult) but that’s another story for another time.
Hasta la vista (guess where I’m going).
I know I’m English and we call pants ‘trousers’ but I do like a touch of alliteration and I have some readers from the States so, if you thought this was going to be about men’s knickers, sorry to disappoint. The reality is much less exciting I’m afraid, being more concerned with knitted stuff so there you have your heads up and can leave without anybody ever knowing you were here.
Here’s a very French village photo for you. It is my lonely stall set up outside the Mairie (town hall) a couple of weeks ago. It does look like I’m Billy No Mates but, inside there were lots of other stalls raising money for Dog Rescue Carcassonne. I chose to set up outside partly because it was a lovely sunny morning and partly because I had to leave early to take my Mum back to the airport so I sold a few dog collars and bandanas and said my goodbyes without creating havoc inside amongst the other stalls.
So, when my Mum visits, I knit to be more sociable and generally only use the computer or sew when she is catching some ‘Zs’ which is fairly often these days it has to be said.
This is my second completed humungus cable blanket. It is a subtle, flecked duck egg blue but I couldn’t, for the life of me, get that colour to come out properly in the photograph so it looks much more like a light grey, which it isn’t. I did try – I even turned off the ‘auto’ setting and dipped into the realms of manually setting the aperture and all that scary stuff . Any photography tips on how to tackle this sort of problem would be gratefully received.
It’s actually like this.
I love this blanket so much. I’ve already ordered enough yarn to make another two which is a bit mad because, now the summer is starting to kick in, I shall probably die of heat and suffocation under more than 2kg of wool.
This light and airy baby blanket, on the other hand, is made using the same size needles – 20mm – but with only one strand of yarn rather than six strands, as used in the humungus one, so it is more ‘summer friendly’. Having no babies any more, I had to use this bear as a model. I could have used one of my baby mannequins but they are far too creepy – the bear looks cuter, trust me.
To supplement my dog collars and bandanas range, I thought I’d have a go at knitting some dog coats. I know it is the wrong time of year but you know how quickly the year passes and soon it will be time for those who like or need to put a little jumper on their dog to do so again.
This is James C. Brett Marble Chunky and it is great to knit with and comes up with some lovely colour variations. The grey one at the top has been a little overshadowed by the lovely, rust and teal tones of the one beneath but it is still smart and for the less ‘showy’ dog about town. My problem is, I made these two versions in a ‘medium’ size and my own dogs are larger than that and nobody I know has ‘medium’ dogs – only large or small. I feel like taking one out and about with me and, when I see somebody with an appropriately sized dog, ask if I can put a little knitted coat on their pet and take a photo.
That way madness lies.
Anyway, Flo, having graciously tried on the grey coat but finding it a little snug, continued with her collar modelling and, although this photo was no good to show off the collar, as it wasn’t properly in focus, it’s such a gorgeous one of her I had to include it anyway.
You’re probably past caring by now but, just in case you were wondering about the title, I no longer have any excuse not to get started on a pair of trousers (pants!) for my daughter. I have the pattern, I have the fabric, I have the zip. It’s just that I’ve never made trousers before and my daughter is not a ‘standard’ size and I suspect I might be better at procrastination than pants making.
I love the winter days when the sky is blue, the air is crisp and you can see snow but it’s not right on your doorstep.
The skiers are complaining as there’s not enough snow but that’s fine by me. I find skiing too much of a faff – far too much equipment to grapple with, too many clothes to get on and off, the roads are slippy and dangerous leading up to the slopes and it’s too cold for my liking. Those mountain tops are a half hour’s drive away and I’m satisfied with just looking. I wish the French would bury their wires though 😦 I could have got a view without the wires from higher up in my garden but I was in my bedroom, the camera was to hand and, anyway, this is the reality.
Still, with all that on my doorstep, I do get homesick from time to time so I have inflicted this reminder on the local wildlife.
It was a toss up between this one and Dr. Who’s Tardis. Maybe I should have gone for that as it would probably have been bigger on the inside 😉
Can anyone explain why the birds are leaving those fat balls alone in favour of the sunflower seeds yet, at other times, it seems to be the other way round? We get blue tits, nuthatches, robins, coal tits and finches mostly. If it’s very cold the occasional blackbird and dove fly up on to the balcony. Unsurprisingly, we get lots of sunflowers springing up under the balcony in the summer.