Thursday, 30 September 2010

A pressie to myself

This morning I received the present I had ordered for myself

Now I know you think I am probably mad, but I love stationery. Pens, pencils, notebooks, everything like that. I love my to do lists, highlighted when things are finished and different colours for different tasks.

Every couple of months the lady from the stationery company comes to see me to see if I need to order anything. Normally I order something. We have created a work book that we give our students, so every new client needs a book, that means I have to order stationery regularly.

I always have a quick look in the catalogue and when she comes she tells me what offers they have on this month.

Yesterday when she arrived she was using a lovely turquoise pen. This was one of the offers. It reminded me of my school days when I used to write with turquoise ink in my ink pen - note - INK pen not cartridge pen. I used to carry around a bottle of QUINK turquoise ink.

So I decided I would treat myself and buy the turquoise pen (well it is my company, so it's OK) and lovely it is too.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Menu Planning Monday

This week is my Pork week

  • Monday: Roast pork loin,
    mix a dessert spoon of grain mustard, djion mustard and sunflower oil and cover the pork with the mixture. Put in a baking tray with about 1inch of boiling water.
    Bake in a hot oven - 200° for 1,5 hours.
    Boiled potatoes, carrots and cauliflower all cooked together in the steamer. Gravy made with juices from the meat
  • Tuesday: Left over meat, veg and gravy Pie
    Fry the veg, meat and gravy very gently, add more liquid if required. Put into a pie dish and cover with shortcrust pastry.
  • Wednesday: Left over meat with cous cous
    Gently fry the chopped up meat with onions and lardons. Cook the cous cous with stock and herbs. When ready add some dry fried nuts, dried apricots to the cous cous and serve with the meat. Serve with chutney or chilli jam.
  • Thursday: Chicken Curry and Rice.
    Cut Chicken escalopes into 1 inch squares. Fry in a very hot wok until white. Add a good dessert spoon of Pataks Madras curry paste and a teaspoon of chilli jam for extra heat. Fry together. Add one tin of Coconut Milk and cook for 10 minutes. Serve with Basmati rice, mango chutney and chilli jam
  • Friday: Home made Fish and chips with peas
    Make the batter Fry the chips, then the fish, then just finish off the chips for a minute in the fryer.
  • Saturday: Home made Pizza with a scone base.
  • Sunday: Slow cooked shin beef casserole with dumplings

Monday, 27 September 2010

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

How about that for a question.

I saw this question in a newspaper article about the Facebook creator.

Ever since I read it I can't stop thinking about it, even saying it out loud.

I'm saying to myself -

What am I afraid of?

Why am I afraid?

Why should I be afraid of anything that is not life threatening?

I am going to mull over this question for the next few days and see what I can come up with. I already have some ideas.

I read a blog yesterday that talked about setting new challenges when you reach 50, things you have always wanted to do.

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

What are your thoughts on this question. I would love to hear from you.

Feeling our age

I have been working from home today trying to get on top of my company accounts.

I seem to have spent the whole day sitting on the settee. I could work at my desk but it's not as warm upstairs.
While I've been working - Miss, my old girl, has been lying in her basket next to me, snorting and snoring all day.

Everytime I have got up to have a stretch and move around she has done the same and we have both found it difficult today.

It is cold in the lounge, no heating and wrapped in a blanket, so that when we move you can almost hear everything creaking!!

Need to move now to put tea on, so Miss will come with me and we'll both have a good stretch.

Made in Touraine

This is where we went on Saturday.

It was an exhibition of companies in our region, presenting themselves and their products.

We went because a lot of our clients were there and it was a chance to talk to a few more.

As we walked around and talked to our clients there were a few points that were always made-

  • Business is slow but getting better but nowhere back to 2008 figures.
  • 2010 is better than last year but still difficult and visibility for later in the year is non- existant.
  • Potential employees - graduates, students etc were not aware that English would be as important to them.
One company told us that as soon as they mentioned English and started to talk in English to them, they looked horrified. Another of our clients was telling potential employees that they needed to have two things - a good knowledge of computer based design software and be able to speak English.

In schools in France there is a lot of emphasis put on reading and writing but not much conversation. This does not help kids in the future when they will need English to find a job.
Nearly all of my children's friends lack confidence when I speak to them in English and I have been doing that for nearly 10 years with some of them.

If you live in the Uk and are good at other languages and you are preared to travel - the world is your oyster.

When you speak English as your first language, I think you just take it for granted without realising all the doors it can open for you if you want to go through them.

Busy weekend

We have had a very busy weekend

I made 3 jars of lemon curd
Delia's recipe

Then I had to make some pastry for the lemon curd tarts. I have been keeping house and cooking for 32 years - gosh that sounds a long time, what that really means is that I have been with MOH for 32 years- and in all that time I have never mastered the art of pastry. My mum used to make it all the time and it was lovely. When I read on several blogs that the easiest way to make it was to just put everything in the processor and pulse it, I thought I would give it a go and guess what it worked perfectly. This time I made flan pastry with milk, rolled it out very thinly - too thinly according to MOH and made small lemon curd tarts. I had about the same amount of pastry left over, so I made some Mince tarts, they weren't pies because there was no lid.I have been making my own mincemeat for about 10 years as we cannot buy it here. Whenever I serve mince pies to my French friends or clients they think it's disgusting to make mincemeat and keep it for so long but when they try it they say it's good. I make the weightwatchers version of mincement because it doesn't use suet and again that's not something we can buy here - well not the Atora suet anyway. So I had a couple of jars left from last year and I made a tray of mince tarts which were all eaten before the end of the evening!! Sorry no pics. Will take some next time.

I finally cleared and cleaned out all my kitchen drawers and cupboards. We have had some little visitors (mice) over the past few weeks and after setting traps for them we caught 4 in the space of an evening, so I wanted to be sure they had all gone before I cleared all my kitchen.
Yesterday I pulled everything out of the drawers, cleaned and disinfected them, then the same with my cupboards and to my horror discovered that my general dry goods cupboard had been attacked by the little moths that get into things, so all of the packets and jars were emptied into a large bucket with the dirty oil from the deep fat fryer, mixed together and given to the pigs. I'm really glad I'm was not sleeping with them last night - there would have been a bit of gas around I would think!! They did enjoy it though.
Then I put all my kilner jars in the dishwasher to really clean them. this is the first time I have used my dishwasher since the 1st September. They are all sitting on the side waiting for the chilli jam that I will start to make today.

I also made a very posh - well posh for me- coffee and nut sponge cake with coffee butter filling and coffee glacé icing. Just a few calories! This we had for tea on Saturday with a lasagne I had made last week and frozen

I need some more work on my icing I think, but it was the lighest cake I have ever eaten. I whisked the eggs and sugar over a pan of simmering water.

MOH was busy too, he put up two outside lights that come on automatically when you walk past them. We do not have any street lights here, so it's dark in the evenings and early mornings, particularly when he goes to feed the pigs at 7 am.

Will add another post later about our trip to Tours on Saturday morning.

I am working from home today so I can get more things done without interruptions. Well apart from writing my blog!!
Have a nice day

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Holding Back the Years

and hasn't he just.

I have just watched itv's Simply Red last concert.

He sang all his best songs live and they were excellent. Brought back loads of memories and made me want to dance.

Brilliant musicians with proper instuments - saxophone, flute even something like an electrical recorder.

Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Did anyone else see it?

Friday, 24 September 2010


That's the only way I can describe the noise that has been waking us up several times a night for the last week.
Anyone guessed what it is?

yes - the mozzie.

For the last week we have been plagued by them. While we're watching tv in the lounge, they dive bomb us and zuzzzz in our ears, but the worst is during the night when you wake up to hear


You have two choices, either cover up completely and look like a mummy, wrapped in the duvet or the light goes on and you jump out of bed, grap a t-shirt and follow it round the room waiting until it lands. (have discovered over the years -that the best way to kill a mosquito is to whack it with a t-shirt, as hard as possible when it lands on the wall or ceiling.)

Last night was the worst.
It was hot, so the quilt was not completely covering every inch of flesh, and I woke up to hear Zuzzzzzzz, jumped out of bed, then realised I had been bitten all across my chest, my arms, fingers and shoulders - at least 6 bites. And to make matters worse I couldn't see the mozzie, so I lay there with the light on for over an hour waiting for it.
Finally gave up and went back to sleep.

4 O'clock in the morning --- Zuzzzzzzzzzz

There it was again - more bites and still couldn't find it.

I'm surprised it could fly with all the blood it had sucked out of me.

So this morning I found the plug-in mosquito killer, shut the bedroom door and hopefully tonight, we might get a full night's sleep.

I think we will need to redecorate the bedroom after this week. There are quite a number of black and red marks on the walls!!

Does anyone else have any mozzie experiences?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sunday Morning

This weekend we have had the most beautiful weather.

Cold and misty in the morning with wonderful blue and pink skies, then warm, sunny and bright blue skies later in the day.

This Sunday I made scones for breakfast which I served with my homemade green tomato marmalade and we sat outside on the patio to eat our breakfast

This is the view across our garden

Then later we went for a walk to see if I could find any more blackberries. The large building you can see in the distance is where we went

Isn't the sky a wonderful colour?

We had to be careful wandering though, as this weekend was the start of the hunting season. This weekend we did not have any chasseurs close to the house, but the dog went barking wild a few times.

Hope you enjoyed a short wander through my Sunday morning.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The tomatoes are taking over .........

If you have followed my blog you will know we have a lot .... of tomatoes.

This was my lounge this morning

The geese were out and free last night and they had discovered the tomatoes in the wheelbarrow. They must have pecked about 15 of the big ones, so we had to bring the wheelbarrow in the house. Good job we've no carpet!
The pink washing basket is full of red tomatoes and green tomatoes.
Some of the red tomatoes are now in the oven being dried overnight and some of the green tomatoes are in jars as green tomato jam.
Tomorrow I will be chopping and freezing some of the big tomatoes, they are too soft to keep for much longer, and I don't know what else to do with them.

For tea tonight I made stuffed tomatoes, with the large tomatoes stuffed with our pork mince, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic and chilli jam - very nice and 4 left over to go in the freezer.
I don't have a picture of them cooked. As soon as they came out of the oven, they were on the plates.


This afternoon we moved Mrs P and 4 of her little ones up to the tomatoes and potato plot and they are now enjoying all the ones that are still left on the plants.

I counted the chilli plants this afternoon, we have 96, yes you read that right - 96 plants. Can you imagine how many chillis that will give us. MOH got a bit carried away this year I think. I will have to buy a lot of jam sugar to make chilli jam. Most of them are still green, so I have a couple of weeks before I have to get ready for the picking etc.

If you look at the first picture at the top you will see 2 little chicks sitting on the mat outside the french window. They are a couple of months old now and have taken to sitting on the mat or staring in through the window while we are watching tv.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Going Grey Gracefully

For as long as I can remember I have been colouring my hair. I couldn't even tell you what my natural colour was, except it was brown.
Since my early teens, I have been all different shades of brown with red, purple, orange, even a bit of blue added, but my favourite was always golden highlights.
About a year ago I decided enough was enough and I stopped colouring my hair.

Now I have almost white hair at the front and salt and pepper at the back. My hairdresser has been wonderful, she encourages me and tells me about other clients who have done the same thing. At the moment we keep it short so each time I have it cut some of the 'pepper' goes and it looks whiter.
I have found that I look at women with grey hair a lot more now and compare my colour to theirs and look at which styles look the best. I saw a lady this morning with grey, almost white hair in a short bob - it looked lovely.

When I look in the mirror sometimes I see my mum, but everyone around me tells me it looks nice and I am much happier now and you know what it saves a fortune!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Tea Update

Thanks for all your empathy yesterday, I can see I am not the only one to need a T fix during the day. Brightandnew said she craves chocolate if she doesn't get her tea, my ideal would be to have the two together!
Anyway took the tea bags to work, started the day with a cup of tea, so much better today and I managed to clear a lot of the paperwork,

Much better day today and tomorrow will be even better - I can see it in my tea leaves - well I would if I had any to look at..

How do you fancy making your tea in one of these pots?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

First Day back at work....

Even though I have been working on and off through August, that was at home, today I went back into the office for the first time in a month!!!

I seemed to be drowning in a sea of paper today, could not get organised or clear.

That might have a lot to do with running out of tea bags this morning - so no cup of tea all day, headache, tiredness, eyeache - I think that means I am addicted - HELP
Well maybe not, I have just had a quick look on the web and I don't think I am addicted but I do need at least 2 or 3 cups a day - what do you think?

I hope tomorrow will be better, will bring tea bags from home and get organised first thing.
Wish me luck

Monday, 6 September 2010

Weekend harvest continued .....

On my post this morning I forgot to tell you about the tomatoes

This year we have had a bumper crop, much better than last year.

We have a good selection - small, medium, plum, large and very large and mis-shapen.The nicest one this year are the big beefsteak tomatoes. We have been eating these every day for a couple of weeks now, in every form possible!

That leaves us with a lot of ordinary but tasty tomatoes. So yesterday morning we picked 15 kilos of the little devils.

We peeled them, chopped them into chunks and boiled them up and then blitzed them.

This picture gives you an idea of the size of the pan

This afternoon I put the tomato juice/pulp into freezer bags.

10 bags of 1 litre + 1 plastic bottle of 1 litre.

They have all gone in the freezer to be used when we don't have any tomatoes!

Weekend Harvest

Sunflowers in the field behind our house

It has been a beautiful weekend here and the perfect time to harvest our fruit and veg.
Here are just some of the things we collected this weekend
6kgs Apples
8 kgs yellow plums
15kgs tomatoes
8 squashes - for the pigs
potatoes - too many to weigh, now bagged up and in the garage

These are the first fruits off this plum tree .

I used some to make a crumble, some I froze for a crumble in the winter and the rest I used in a Hot Spiced plum chutney from the Cottage Smallholder

It made 3 Kilner Jars and half a jar, which are now in my store cupboard mouldering for a couple of months

With the apples I made Spiced Apple jelly and Mint Apple Jelly

As I did not have a jelly bag, I improvised, taking the advice of the Cottage Smallholder

I used an old pillow case, washed and sterilised by ironing, tied onto a broom handle, hung between 2 chairs over a colander into the pan - well you can see that for yourself anyway!
The recipe gave me 1 litre of liquid which when the sugar was added and boiled, gave me three and a half jars of beautiful peach coloured jelly with a massive kick to it!!
The Mint apple jelly was my own adaption but does not tast very minty, maybe will try again and add more mint, not sure yet.

Some of the apples I used in cupcakes. I cooked 3 apples, chopped into small bits, with some vanilla sugar until they were soft. Then I made a normal cupcake or fairy cake recipe with 200g of everything. I put muffin cases in the muffin tin, then put 1 large teaspoon of the cake mixture, a spoonful of apples then finished off with a spoonful of the cake mixture to cover the apples. However I ran out of mixture for the last three cakes, so I crumbled up some left over cranberry cake and put this on top. Into the oven 180° for a good 20 minutes.
They were delicious.

As you can see we had a busy weekend!!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

We've taken the plunge ..........

No not really...

But we have taken the plunge with our budgeting.

Went onto Martin Lewis' Money Saving Expert site and completed the budgeting page.
Then on Wednesday went to the bank and drew out my housekeeping money for September in cash. I have not used cash like that for years and years. MOH said today he thought it was better to use cash because it felt like you were actually spending money not just using your card all the time. I gave MOH his money for the month for the pig food. Just a quick aside - the price of grain for the pigs has increased by 1,50€ for a 25kg sack in just 2 weeks!!

This week I managed to get all my shopping for just under 50€. Thankfully I have a freezer full of pork, lots of potatoes, tomatoes, onions, squashes and tons of chillis!!
Tonight we ate a really nice meal - sauted potatoes, roasted tomatoes, onions with steak and salmon that I found in the freezer.

I have also planned my menu for the second week running and even though my son is not always happy with the meals he is eating them.

Sunday - Roast Pork, Roast potatoes, peas and carrots
Apple Crumble
Monday - Yorkshire Puddings with pork and gravy
Tuesday - Rissoles with tomato salad and pasta
Wednesday - Home made chicken curry and rice
Thursday - Chicken and mushroom pie ( chicken left over from last week and frozen)
Friday - Home made pizza

I would like to thank the following people who have inspired me with their blogs:

Frugal Queen -
Foster Mummy -
Hardup Hester -
Shirley Goode -

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Home Alone!!

I have just re-read my last post and realised it sounded very over the top - sorry.
I am only going through what thousands of families do every year, although in my defence, it was the first time for me.

Anyway, all went well. We unpacked all his stuff, went shopping and now he has enough food to feed a rugby team for a few weeks. I tried to get him things that he would cook and eat, that meant no veg, no fruit - well I managed a few bananas and tins of sweetcorn!!

and as you can see 2 jars of Nutella - the staple food of kids everywhere!

Now I have to finish tidying his empty bedroom, then shut the door.

And to think I will have to go through it all again in 2 years. That will be even more difficult !!