Wednesday, 31 August 2016


This photo is from the BBC: an article about an 88 year old Indian company making and selling saris.  I have worn a sari more than once; they are beautiful garments to wear when wrapped correctly. I wore them when I used to go to concert halls in London and to musicians' houses at a time when my former husband was learning to play the sitar. He still has the sitar which is quite remarkable as the gourds do not always last. I would imagine his sitar is worth quite a sum of money now. The strings are like cheese wire and he developed callouses after many hours of playing. I admired him for what he learned and what he played.  I thank him for the introduction to the culture but in those days when new cultures were welcomed to my land by me it was in place of the opportunity to travel which then I could not afford.  Nor now, BUT YES, I still wish to travel to India yet will never be able to afford these silk beauties - the saris!  I love the juxtaposition of such beautiful colours.  This photo could be a painting of a moment in time.
Models wearing Nalli saris

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Kitchen of the Past just one more time....

If anyone really wants to delve back into MY BLOG, MY PAST, then just type KITCHEN into the search box and there appears to be ten pages of references to previous posts .. including  this one, that is

posted in September 2015.....

I'll give it a rest now and try to post on some other things I have done or seen during this year when I did not have time or inclination to post!

Writing and finding photos takes so much time ... but it is done!
THE END of Renovation
Tomorrow the end of August 2016!
Is it time to wind up many ends and start a new beginning?
WE shall see what we shall see!
Time will tell.
See the proverb on my heading.
Doors and windows may be closed .. and then opened.. and closed and opened! 

Monday, 29 August 2016

The Kitchen 4 of 4

Oh MY ..  I had truly forgotten the despair that was in this room when I chose to purchase this house in 2010!  The first two photos are of the kitchen built in 1985 before I moved in.  Interesting they had a window bench! The next photos are of the chaos of renovation happening in the first four weeks. I was instructed to remove all wallpaper in the house as my first task!

I now know that the then extraction unit used the trap door access to the attic. Probably it was a ladder to a very rough living space in the attic!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Kitchen 3 of 4

WELL... what happened to this sequence of postings I had prepared earlier in 'good Blue Peter style', WAS THAT I decided I didn't want pics I had previously uploaded because they still showed cardboard on the floor.  Lazy posting and not showing attention to detail, I thought!  Hence, I took this posting OFF published ... well... time has is one of the offending pics.. but note the turquoise.. See below.

The climate got hot hot hot with highs of 38C in my courtyard and 26C in my darkened house even with opening and closing doors and shutters and letting the warm breeze blow in... and I did not wish to be glued to my computer!  There ARE other tasks to do!
(here,  as I type, I come to wax lyrical, expressing my repetitive daydream ..
all I need for the dream to become true are: white lace curtains wafting in a slight breeze against French windows and white walls, a white baby grand placed before and to one side with me playing something delicately, classically peaceful, whilst summer stills the air with aromas of roses, lemons, rosemary, all against the backdrop of mountains - then I shall be in heaven!)
Wake up woman .. it's the KITCHEN of MY LIFETIME we are supposed to be presenting!

So to end the saga of 15 months in the planning and renovating:

I like to sit on the new window seat with or without the windows open! So does BigFeet the cat! It also appears to be a fly, moth, butterfly graveyard -aways has been. I suppose because of the light!
It's an outdoor garden table and chairs... with my heavy cotton 1970's Liberty fabric, Bauhaus design by Sarah Campbell and Susan Collier used as a tablecloth.
I have come to like the floating curve of the extraction unit against straight lines;  the silver against the white and black.  My friend eventually found the correct height to position it! He did growl at screw holding devices for plasterboard!
I use one of my Sri Lankan fabric prints of frangipane flowers as a cover for the black glass induction hob to remind me not to put anything on it - to protect it!

The oven is superb... the oven door is so welcoming and a joy to use but as aforesaid cakes have been crumbly and roastie casseroles are done to perfection. I tried a tart one time but the pastry wasn't quite cooked.  More trials are necessary!

I like the fact that the horizontal shelf works on the level chosen. It was well thought out and measured and glided along from the level of the top of the oven and suits my short height.  I like the black, white, grey with pops of colour, as in the vases of replica Sweetpeas and Suffolk poppies.   Now, some of my beautiful jugs are along the shelf; influenced by a postcard my daughter sent me but in my attic I have several more jugs!

I have been trying the colour turquoise as a splashback!  Scroll up to look at the first photo.
After much deliberation my mind has altered as it does!  I thought about the multi-coloured tile I found in the style of Mondrian, this one made as a coaster by a young English woman near Limoges..... BUT... it could be too overwhelming...?   The jury is still out!  If they were larger squares and I had some control over the colours and positioning of shapes etc then perhaps... My friend I suggested I learn how to do it. I would but "the attic stuff" requests me to sort and rationalise what to keep and what to lose!
so then... prevarication being my middle name .. started to move back to something neutral, discerning, tasteful, yet artistic which must protect the painted plasterboard!

I had the idea of putting the leftover floor tiles as one row... but not necessarily repeating behind the sink and induction hob with perhaps a sheet of transparent tempered glass above the row of tiles.  No, not that!
So.. until I find something that I feel confident about then the tiles propped up serve as some protection for the wall.   I am looking forward to one day browsing in a FIRED EARTH shop!
The nine tile repeat pattern for the floor ... fun to lay eh? as each tile was orientated exactly and in relation to the others in the rows upon the floor!  Each tile had small 'taches' / stains in the making which helped the process!  Very good meditation now they are laid!
Small digression here: 
A bedspread featuring camels is on the door window as it is long enough to drape both sides of the window for privacy for the next living room, used as a bedroom.  The second of the two same doorways links the middle living room to the end bedroom or study - 'The small room', as I call it, I am led to understand it was the original kitchen.
I don't know how to put a more permanent curtain on these door windows for privacy as the window has a curved top which is what I would like to see! Maybe small decorative panels painted in each of the six windows but how to place them? Any ideas or seamstresses most welcome!
Perhaps next year, the fridge will be replaced with a French larder fridge above a small freezer  and then where does one put the micro-four combi (temporary here).  It was a gift and works perfectly well if not BIG! I like it!  I have come to enjoy using it for some cooking and also it does defrost. However, I DO LIKE a real oven! 
At the moment I have not yet emptied the two IKEA trolleys of cutlery and mugs.. into the drawers. One trolley is to be furbished with breakfast things for when I do B&B!  The other was to have fruit and veg but in this weather fruit and veg are kept in 'le buanderie derriere la cuisine' or in the fridge, if not in a bowl or basket in the house!
In the 'awkward corner' are two stone pots: one for wooden spoons and the other for metal/plastic utensils plus the wood container for SHARP knives. 
My friend made the wine rack with the 15cm space that IKEA and SCHMIDT planning tools would not allow.  Both kept saying that I could not have what I wanted!!!!!! My friend is a true artisan!

        I ABSOLUTELY LOVE:          
Thank you to one who has been a special friend!

Monday, 22 August 2016

The Kitchen 2 of 4

Ah the kitchen ... the cuisine!  A summing up!

What a mammoth task, taking about 15 months and more out of my life.
Taking out the good parts of a fited kitchen and upcycling the cupboards for laundry / larder room setting took 2+ months.  Continuing that room and preparing four walls, a beamed ceiling and a floor took 2+ months. Some months to recover from exhaustion. Some months to fathom out the measured plan, as opposed to what the kitchen fitting sales shops want you to have! Some months visiting shops and seraching internet to find 'the look' when a number of looks appeal. Some months angsting about the budget. Some months finding the electricians and plumbers to arrive to give estimates and then to do the work when I NEED them to do it - this is also affected by French Holidays.  Some months whilst my helper went to warmer climes for the winter.  Maybe that covers it!

I can't believe how much energy I wasted in the last 15 months without a kitchen at all. At first with only the exterior building sink and cold water whilst hot water was carried there in buckets.  In desperation after three months or so, the dishwasher saved HOURS!  Later the 35 year old oven died the day before my friend left. Down to the dechetterie it did go!  Without an oven and a proper hob, I made do with fierce gas burners on a two-ringed camp stove, a cheap slow cooker,  an electric steamer ( sold for 5e each at the Spring Brocante!). It was a road to burned meals as I dashed 'twixt the cold atelier subject with outdoor wind, le grand salon and the laundry/ larder room.  I survived!  

The existence of a proper kitchen has lifted years from my shoulders.  Freedom seems to have arrived but the honeymoon is almost over as I gradually get used to it.   Every morning I thank the fitter!
The kitchen isn't completely finished.
Ideas to do:
'Coffrage' - a cupboard around the electricity meter would be good. Planned was a shelf above the door and window to mask the pipes but I can't see the point! Just another thing to clean!
The major thing that I cannot decide upon is the backsplash or do I mean splashback - 'un credence' in French.
Bright or neutral?
Tiles or glass or something else? I went off the idea of glass as too ultra modern! It would be easy to keep clean. The snag would be measuring exactly for the plugs PLUS tempered glass is expensive in France!
I explored a few hand made tiles from Provence and Brittany but have not found what I was seeking.. as if I really know? FIRED EARTH have some Parisian themed tiles at amazing expense I cannot afford! Would love to see them in REALITY though!
Next year I hope to buy a French larder fridge freezer if I am still here!  Meanwhile my 14 year Bosch larder fridge soldiers on, even though two of the trays have had to be repaired.  The French freezer is good but oh so noisy even though A+.
Maybe a mirror on the wall above the radiator .. and / or a shelf for cookbooks.
Maybe one or two selected photos on the bare walls towards the laundry room.
H'm.. will have to plan carefully as when the plasterboard receives the screw holders if, in the wrong place they are a nuisance to make good. 

REALLY the positive is that:
I LOVE the white, black and grey.
I love the new floor -exceptionally nice and inexpensive.   This is in keeping with the age of the village farmhouse.  So glad to have steered clear of wood, lookslikewood and other ideas! 
I love the drawer concept.
My friend modified the IKEA drawers to fit. We took back their rubbish plinthes twice.. first white, then black but they were slubby brown! My friend made his own in wood, having to modify the awful IKEA legs of the furniture!
IKEA is not bad, in fact LOVE IT and HATE IT.  The fitting of it though does require careful attention but one done means the next are easier!  We had to watch a few videos to get ideas on e.g. how to release the drawers once fitted!!!
I wish I'd known how many IKEA videos there are once one starts to enter key words!  These would have been helpful in the planning stage but might have taken longer. 
I detest the amount of cardboard, paper instructions, leaflets and surplus parts accrued.  At one time I started to weigh each material but eventually got bored. Some cardboard and packaging board was usefully recycled.  Some packaging materials were saved for the Arts Group.  Anyone for IKEA parts (???), which I might recycle back to IKEA as a protest!

IKEA were excellent on delivery and true to their word on exchange and replacement. Never accept 'un avoir' unless you wish to purchase further products. I forgot to use 160e one day such is the experience that the feeling of "phwew let me out of here" at the cash desk lulls one into forgetfulness! I discovered this when I got home!   In order to get a refund I had to return, but that was six weeks later (one has a year to use an avoir), buy something using the AVOIR, and take it immediately back to the desk for a refund to my bank account.  They did not tell me that.  I had to work it out when the nice man and the nice supervisor manager said NO to a refund and NO towards the monthly payments.  At least I think there were ten visits of a three hour return journey each time in the deliberating, planning, buying, returning stages. Hwoopee all done!

It has been a saga that I am very glad to see the back of and to be able to sit in my kitchen and view the world of my courtyard! Maybe little birds will return to "Le Petit Oiseau".  

The oven seems to do a fine roast or braise in a closed casserole but two cakes were crumbly and dry. So I must TEST a recipe that has been successful in the past to determine how this new FANDANGO Neff oven works. I highly recommend the 'escamotable' door which opens and glides into the oven so one does not have to reach around the door.

The hob is a dream to clean but salt or sugar would scratch the surface, so I am careful!  It's like cooking by numbers!  I already miss fierce wokking of onions, garlic, veg for a stir fry!

So pics .. of the MAGAZINE look and some as the kitchen is in ACTION... tomorrow!
Such a tease this is! 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Kitchen 1 of 4

Ah...the kitchen.. la cuisine.  I keep you in waiting!

Before I comment, I would like to publicly thank my erstwhile and yet existing friend for all his skills, talents, labour, patience, fortitude, irritation, frustration, anger, guilt, commitment, display of concern or love or friendship or whatever one wants to call the inter relationship between two people who try to understand each other...
and honour him with Knighthood!
For rescuing me so many times!
For hanging about for six years
even though he had decided that we were not to be a couple anymore (MY DISBELIEF EVEN THOUGH I KNEW!). 
In those six years, appearing from time to time, and for months on end to work with me, and for me, to get the renovation finished, he persevered on the house that I had bought in 2010.
a) as a project we could do together to save our relationship
b) knowing yet not even daring to think or acknowledge that by having my son involved at the beginning it would not work
c) not acknowledging my repeated fears and intuition between 2003 and 2006.
d) as a bolt hole to have somewhere to stay that was mine and yet still be a couple!
How I was blinkered and naive!
LOVE is blind!

I would also like to apologise for all my mental and emotional breakdowns which have caused me to write poetry and prose on this blog and to pour my heart out in anguish!
Also to friends and family who have supported me, protected me, done their best to advise me, endured me and my complications of heart and mind! 

Fans, friends and family have waited to see the kitchen photos.  Some had private pics some time ago! When those who do not live in France will ever come is not of consequence any more!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

A Tower and a Castle

To unscramble my head I headed out to Monthoiron where there were guided visits in French.  For years I have been fascinated by this tower, which a few years ago started to show signs of undergrowth being removed from it. VOILA it is being revealed in its ruined state and next year it may be possible to go inside.
I was particularly interested to go this weekend as medieval cannons were to be fired. A big bang! HOWEVER, nothing like the demonstration in Haut-Koenigsberg, Alsace in 2006 or 7 when my daughter lived there for a week in true re-enactment medieval style, in an attic, at an early Easter, with snow on the ground. She was ill before she went and ill when she went home! A straw bed in an attic aint much fun!  The Burgundians were fighting!

I digress as usual!

Today was a pleasant afternoon, extremely informative if one can understand French.  I get some!  For three euros it was good value.  I received a French leaflet and an English one with different text content! Bizarre!
After twelve years of being mystified, it was very interesting to see it up close,  to know about the "buttresses", to see the private chateau (exterior) and other buildings around it as well as to understand some of its history.  ALSO that it is one of Leonardo da Vinci's designs.  Interestingly has been cut by earthquakes. One visitor announced he used to scramble through the crack when he was a boy. 
A peaceful afternoon to unscramble my head which returned when I got home.. so I am writing this!
The drive in the vehicle was hot (no windows open in my car!) despite the wonderful wind. Thank goodness they sold Magnums.  I needed one as my freezer is empty of such delights! Wonderful architectural history.
Here are my photos:
This part was once built similar to the next building

The private Chateau of Monthoiron

All that is left of the buttresses

Sunday, 14 August 2016

My village

Today I discovered from two friends, one Italian who saw the announcement in the Press yesterday, that the Maire and four associates have resigned.
I am not surprised. They have had a battle.
I THINK it is to do with the fact that the Management of the Chateau and the Centre d'Interpretation de Roc aux Sorciers has been taken over by a company from Dordogne and something about insufficient care about PATRIMOINE! This is only what I ahve been informed!
All this organised by higher authorities.
Ok, ticket prices are inexpensive for one but I think expensive for a family, and the guided visits are only open until the end of August. I must go next week!
I met people oit and about before July who were seriously upset that they had come to this plus beaux village only to find they could not acces the inside of either monument! 
The grue ( crane)  has been in place since about March...( what is THAT costing!?).  I have only ever seen it work the once which was amazing but as I don't live in the Chateau I don't always know what goes on down there or even in the High Town.   I must go and see what they have done inside. I am told they have made pathways and therefore ruined the natural grass of what was left on the ground floor plan!
MAYBE we need the ENGLISH to breach La Tranchée d'Anglais encore and give the French something to think about!  JOKE!

I am sad because I think the new Maire and his team were doing their very best with the higher authorities where they have had no control of expenditure etc.

This is a tourist village and in the winter there are not enough people and in the summer it is heaving.

How can a village survive with such demands unless it is given support?

The Tourist Office has survived this year but next year there may be no money to employ anyone! 

I have just been translating and reproducing the leaflets in English for tourists. Would you believe the Tourist Office did not have any?

SERIOUSLY, this village is too split with factions, organizations and associations and the different groups need to work together. We can't even get Credit Agricole to install 'un distributeur' (cash withdrawal machine and I witnessed over 20 inquiries, only for visitors at Book festivals and ordinary days to be told they have to go to the next town(s).

Arid August

 A field of sunflowers short lived where they turn heads ...

 Lavender flowers lock aroma and flavour into fragrant seeds...
Oange angel trumpets sing above pungent yellow achillea yarrow
Golden light, heat, drought of France create an arid soil ...
which made it easy to lift not a good crop of potatoes.
Tomatoes, kale, carrots, clematis suffered!
Hopeless!  I'm glad that Spring wet weather made planting seeds too tricky!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

A friend's belated birthday fest in July

Champagne at my friend's house was informal and relaxed.  A walk to the restaurant for lunch, then back to the garden for after lunch chat and an evening barbecue were all with good company, It was nice to eat out.  I like the local restaurant.  Some think it Michelin standard.  The food was exquisitely presented, full of protein but no vegetables!  Maybe I live in the dark ages... However, thank you to all those who invited me.
This was a starter but not mine: foie gras, onion chutney and ???
 This my starter :  a ball of salmon gravadlax with tomato and attention to presentation!

 I break into it!
 This my main course: I break into a sheet of pasta to reveal delicious fresh cod and more tomato!

This was a duck main entree: not mine!
There was local cheese goats cheese followed by birthday cake accompanied by fireworks which was whisked away and converted to desserts for everyone.  Coffee or tea if one wished.

 Here just one of the bottles of lovely Burgundian wines...

Friday, 12 August 2016

Un grand vin pour un grand pas.

About ten years ago or maybe more... we were given a MAGNUM (150cl)  in gratitude for us teaching English to two children and because it was a Christmas gift!  The bottle was laid horizontal in a variety of temperatures at the other French house where I lived.. it was either a hot or cold environment! ... and here where the temperature has been more stable!
Having no other wine in the house I thought it was time to TEST it, to TEST the new oven and to celebrate the new kitchen.  Also to thank my former partner for 3 months work laying the floor tiles, installing the kitchen furniture, reconnecting the drainage system, several other minor but important tasks, not to mention four months last year prepping walls and ceilings and installing laundry / larder room furniture.

We were both exhausted by the turn of July into August.
He has been frustrated with my slow decision making.
My own slowness has definitely frustrated me!
However, working as a team we got to where we are now - the end of six rooms being renovated in six years!
.. as well as a marvellous kitchen where I have to re-hone my cooking skills!

I invited a friend and so we were three.

We opened a bottle of Vouvray, saving half which I drank two days later and it still had fizz!
I needed bubbly!

Lamb rôti (40% price reduction bought mid June waiting in the freezer for a special occasion) was  slow roasted. I slashed the top with a knife. Then rubbed into the top and underside of meat 'a chopped, crushed, blended together mixture of rosemary leaves, garlic cloves, capers, anchovies, lots of lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil'.  Then I placed the meat onto sliced onions and sliced potatoes from my garden. I put it into a large oval pyrex dish which has its own lid as deep as the container. I used to have a wonderful enamelled metal one with dimples on the top but that died a few years ago!
The lamb which was more braised than roasted was served with four vegetables.

It wasn't the most amazing meal I have ever cooked but the lamb shredded off the bone after I let it rest out of the oven.  I like that!
It was followed by local goats' cheese, batavia and walnut oil.
For dessert I made a blueberry / myrtille tart.. page 182...adapted to contain pears from THE FRENCH KITCHEN by Joanna Harris and Fran Warde.  DELICIOUS!

ohgoodoh! My cookbooks can be found!

This wine really deserved a better meal but at least it wasn't served with a fried egg. That is another story from the long time past! Not sure how much this would have cost if I bought it in 2016! I had to not care!  Delicious it was...

To be fair to this story.. we opened it the evening before this meal and drank one glass each!  The cheeky monkey said it was nowhere near as good as half a bottle of St Emilion I once took home from a priest's house (with his permission!) to share with my friend!!!!!   Talk about gratitude!!!!!!  Maybe  he does it to wind me up!  Anyway I almost wish I hadn't opened it, especially when the first glassful disappeared from his glass whilst mine was still full!
GRUMBLE is my middle name!