Sunday, 26 December 2010


I know it's a bit too early to wish you all Happy New year


I did take some time this afternoon to put together our household budget for 2011.

Here are the main points:

1. With E now not in university for most of next year, I will be able to save the money we were paying for his rent - 330€
2. My Tax Habitation will be reduced this year - the difference will go into savings
3. My housekeeping will stay at 300€ per month. This was reasonably easy to manage for the last 4 months providing I menu plan properly each week and make lunch to take to work every day.
4. I only have 3 big bills that are not on DD, the house insurance and both cars insurance, so I will put money into a different account each month to pay for these when they arrive.

My objective is to save as much as possible this year

Have you done your budget for 2011 yet?

Friday, 24 December 2010


Just a quick post to wish everyone who reads my blog

A Very Merry Christmas

Thank you for all your kind words of support and encouragement over the last few months. I feel as though I have made a lot of new friends and it's lovely to read about all your adventures all over the world and to keep in touch with my neck of the woods in the UK - Llandudno and Chester.

Today has been all about cleaning and tidying.

I have a lasagne in the oven cooking for tea and the turkey is slowly defrosting ready for tomorrow.
The gammon leg is now sitting in a bath of water, after being in brine for the last 6 days. We will cook this tomorrow.

My menu will be

Roast potatoes
Roast parsnips
Stuffing - sage and onion, chestnut and cranberry and a meat stuffing with chestnuts
pigs in blankets

Christmas pud

then if we have any room later we will have sandwiches with pickled onions.

I hope you all enjoy your day, whether you are en famille or on your own

Speak to you all soon

Monday, 20 December 2010


This is a question for all ladies of a certain age.

Has anyone tried 5HTP?

My friend takes it to help with symptoms of the menopause and she says it works better then St Johns Wort.

Does anyone else have any experience of using it?

I have read all the information regarding the side effects etc, but would like some first hand experience.


Last minute Home Made present idea

Yesterday, before I went to the carol service, I made some of this

Carrot and Cardamom Jam

It was easy peasy to make, but the recipe said to use liquid glucose, which I didn't have, so I used 400gms of jam sugar and 600gms of ordinary sugar.

It has set like a solid jelly. It is still spreadable but thick

It is delicious, sweet, lemony with just the occasional hint of cardamom.

Here is the recipe. It says it makes 5kgs. I got just over a kilo.

Carrot and cardamom jam

By: Thane Prince From: Market Kitchen


* 500g young carrots, peeled and sliced into 2cm strips

* 3 lemons, finely grated zest of 2 lemons, juice of all 3

* 1 large orange, finely grated zest and juice

* 1 tbsp cardamom seeds, (split open the green pods of the cardamom to find the seeds)

* 1kg granulated sugar

* 125g liquid pectin

makes 5kg


1. Place 3 saucers in the freezer to chill - you'll need them later to test the setting point of the jam. Sterilise some jam jars by washing 3-4 jars in soapy water and rinsing them in clean warm water. Allow them to drip-dry, upside down, on a rack in the oven set to 140C/Gas 1. Leave them there for at least half an hour while you make the jam.

2. Cook the carrots in saucepan of boiling water for 10-15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and chop finely.

3. Put the carrots, citrus zest and juice, and cardamom seeds in a preserving pan. Add the sugar, and simmer over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.

4. Increase the heat and boil the mixture for 5 minutes.

5. Add the pectin, return the mixture to the boil, and cook for a further 2 minutes. To test if the jam is ready, dollop a teaspoonful of the mixture onto one of the saucers from the freezer and leave for a few seconds. Push the mixture with your finger and if it gives a little and has started to set, the jam is ready.

5. Once the jam has reached setting point, leave to cool for a further 10 minutes, then stir well. Pour into the hot sterilised jars, seal and label. The jam will keep for up to three months if stored in a cool, dry place and if the jar is sterilised correctly.

Let me know what you think if you make it

Sunday, 19 December 2010

English Carol Service

Tonight I went to my first English Carol Service for 13 years.

My neighbour, who is English invited me to the English Carol Service in a new church that has opened in Loches, our nearest town.

My background is Church of England, where I sang in the choir in my local church in Llandudno for a number of years when I was young.

So when I was invited to the Evangelist church in Loches I was not sure what to expect. I checked first with N about the dress code, whether there would be a collection etc. She told me that it would be much more relaxed than I was used to. She also warned me that some of the carols would be the American versions with different tunes.

I arrived just as it was about to start. It was in a former boulanger, that had been renovated for the church, and it was lovely.

One of our English teachers was playing the piano to accompany the singing, and not just any piano, but a beautiful grand piano. We sang all the traditional carols and one new one. A couple got me stumped with the different tunes, but I got there in the end.

It was really nice.

I met some very nice people who live in our area and are either British or American.

I got to sing my heart out for an hour, something I haven't done for a very long time.

I will definately be going again. The next English service is on January 2nd.

Here is a link to the newsletter, with the church mentioned on page 5, if you would like to see it.

It's all in English!!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Evening Walk

I want you to picture the scene

It's 18.00
pitch black - just a few stars for company
and I need to take the dogs for a walk.

I wrap warm with 3 fleecies, my thick walking coat, hat, gloves, scarf and head torch

Max's lead is light reflective and I have some of the same on the heels of my trainers, so off we went.

Luckily there is not too much traffic on our road but when a car did come, I did turn my face away from the car!!

The last car that came past was my neighbour. When she stopped, I bent down to say hello and I think she thought I was mad. I had a red hat pulled right down to my eyes, the torch was all lopsided and my scarf covered the bottom half of my face. We didn't talk for long as it was too cold.

Max was so cold he was wimpering and nipping my leg to tell me he wanted to go home.

We were out for about 30 minutes and I came back in feeling really good.

No pictures - forgot the camera, when I go for a walk tonight I will take it with me

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook

I have just read The wind and the wellies blog and once again decided to follow her example by writing The Simple Woman's Daybook. you can find her here -


Outside my window... I can see a grey sky, the tops of trees and pouring rain. I am at work on the second floor, so my view is not brilliant, but I do follow the seasons with the trees and sky.

I am thinking... that I must lose some weight. Have passed 50, it's got to be a now or never moment. I ordered a book from Amazon which I hope with give me some more motivation.

I am thankful for... my wonderful husband. I have just spent the morning with a client and we spent an hour putting the world to rights - in French and English - and she was telling me about the last year where she has split from her husband of 20 years. Note to self - stop taking him for granted so much!!

From the learning rooms... I suppose this might be applicable - MOH just told me about one of his students who is buying herself a new camera for christmas, when he asked her why, she said that the old one did not work very well, she had to keep putting it to her ear. For ear - read eye.
It made me laugh.

From the kitchen... This weekend I shall be making some more chocolates. I made some at the weekend, using a mold with different shapes. I made choccies mixed with chopped up almonds, sugered peanuts, cream infused with chilli but the best of the lot was chocolate mixed with Nutella. this made the most lovely smooth and soft choccies. This weekend I want to try coating the mold in chocolate and then filling it with different mixtures and then sealing it at the bottom with the chocolate.
Don't think any of that will help me get motiovated to lose weight!!!

I am wearing... As many layers as possible whilst still looking decent to go out and see clients. Yesterday my hands and feet were freezing all day. Today is a bit warmer but not much.
I have on a vest, long sleeved t-shirt, a wool cardi and then a thick long cardi and I'm still cold.

I am creating... rather - what I would like to create... a crocheted something. Yesterday I bought a larger hook, so I will try again. I am going to try to make a hat tonight. I have not had any success with the granny squares, mine are not at all square!

I am going... nowhere. I feel as though I am stagnating at the moment

I am reading... nothing - yet. I bought a selection of books last week, so I am saving most of them for the Christmas holidays. Then I will start reading again

I am hoping... that my son will have some luck in finding a job this week, however temporary it is, just something to give him some money over christmas

I am hearing... the roar of traffic and the sounds of sirens. The office is right on a very busy main road and just round the corner from the building is a company that sends out ambulances, so there is always the sound of sirens round here.

Around the house... it needs a good clean and tidy before I put up the deccies. Although this year should be interesting with Max, my new puppy!!

One of my favorite things... at the moment is watching Strictly Come Dancing. I missed it on Saturday, so I watched it on iplayer on Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it.

A few plans for the rest of the week: go and do some food shopping - I did not have any money in my account until today, so we have been using up frozen food.
Take Max & Miss out for a short walk each night, even though it is pitch black (no street lights) when we get home, I have found the head torch, so that should be OK
Write and send my christmas cards to the UK

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

This was taken in my back garden looking out over the field in May.

the crop you can is is colza or rape.

I just love the colour of the sky

Sunday, 5 December 2010

10 hour round trip

On Saturday we woke up to sunshine and whiteness.
It felt quite a bit warmer, so we quickly got things organised for our 10 hour round trip.

I haven't told you about this yet, but my son E, who is in university in Toulouse has decided the course is not for him, so he wants to come home and earn some money until September next year, when he hopes to be able to find a course and an apprenticeship in sales. This means he has to find a company that will offer him an apprentice position. He is very positive about it and is happy to take any job that comes along between times to gain experience and earn some money.

So, on Saturday, at 10.30 we set off, MOH and me, a flask, some sandwiches and everything you can think of in case we got stuck in the snow. We had snow boots, a blanket, coats, calor gaz cooking stove and even a bucket of sand, in case we got stuck. How well prepared is that in just 30 minutes.

Yes, I know it was last minute, but that is how things seem to happen in our house!!

I checked the weather forecast in all the cities en route and thay all said the same, sunny but cold.

So off we went.

We didn't stop. Ate our sandwiches on the go. The tea was made and drunk in the car and a good juorney was had. We arrived at my son's studio in just under 5 hours.

The weather had been lovely all the way. There was a lot of snow everywhere but thankfully the roads were clear. The sun was shining and the sky was blue.

As soon as we hit Brive there was no snow anywhere and by the time we had reached Toulouse the temperature had doubled.

After giving him a big hug - I hadn't seen him since August - we quickly loaded up the car. It was a good job MOH had taken out all the seats except one in the Espace, because it was soon full to the roof with bags, bedding and a new settee that we had bought, etc.

I went to see the landlady and apologise for the change of circumstances. Understandably she was not very happy because she said she would not be able to rent the flat again this year. But she was very nice about everything.

It is likely we will lose most of the deposit because my son went to Paris last weekend to stay with his friend and left his house keys there. His friend put them in the post, but they have not arrived, so we will have to pay for the new locks!!

Then we set off home again. We arrived back home just after 21.00.

It is a difficult situation - E says he is most upset about all the money that has been wasted for the studio etc and says he will pay us back. When I asked him what he had learned from the whole adventure, he said that he should not have jumped into taking the course as it was not what he really wanted to do, but that they were the only ones who offered him a place and his girlfriend was going there - by the way - they have split up too. He says this is not the reason for him leaving but I think it probably did help him to confirm his decision.
He said he enjoyed living on his own and taking responsibility for himself. He didn't eat enough but I do know that he ate properly, even if it was only pasta carbonara or pasta with tomato sauce. He has a friend who is in university and does not have any money, so he hardly eats. E said his friend was really excited last week because Super U (supermarket) arrived at his door with food from his mum. Thankfully E had found a job straight away and did have enough money to eat.

So he is home.

Complaining about the cold. Our house is heated to between 14° - 16° (if we are lucky). he has been used to living in a small space and just wearing t-shirts because it was so warm!

Moaning about his desk being full of rubbish - it has been used as a dumping ground for the last few months.

But it is lovely to have him back. I did not realise just how much it changes the dynamics of the family when there is one missing.

He and D are getting on well. We'll see how long that lasts but last night was very nice.

He is going to visit Manpower and Adecco this morning to see if there are any temp jobs around that he can do. Last year he he was quite successful at finding jobs with them.

For me - I am happy to have him home again. I have the feeling this has been a good learning experience for him and I hope he will come out of it stronger and more sure of his decisions.

Who Knows?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Cold and White

This is the second day this week that I am working from home.

Monday was snowy and MOH only had a couple of lessons at the office, then had to come back to the nearest town to where we live for a lesson in the afternoon, so I decided to work from home.
My son did not go to school as there were no school buses. Because they go round all the villages and country lanes, when there is ice on the roads they cancel the bus.

Yesterday MOH and I went to the office. This is a 30kms trip and takes us about 35 minutes, depending on what time we leave home. The weird thing was that when we had gone about 10kms there was not a scrap of snow. It seems as though it was just the south of the department that had snow at the weekend, Tours was clear.

Today MOH has lessons close to home so once again I am at home working. It's invoice time and I am trying to get them out before the 10th of the month, which is what has happened for the last few months.

I am sitting in the lounge - no heating on - and I am wearing 3 fleecies, a long sleeve t shirt and a vest to keep me warm. I am wrapped up in a lovely woollen scarf as well. This morning I have had Max on my knee while I am keying the invoices on my pc.

This morning when we woke up, it was 5.4° in our bedroom and we had ice on the inside of the windows. Brrrr....

I will make the fire soon, so that will keep us warm this afternoon.

We have snow forecast for tonight again, so we will see what tomorrow brings.

Keep warm and safe