Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Blog trawling - #5!

I decided that I would blog trawl todayto clear my fug and to see where I could/would/should end up! Normally I do my daily reads but today I thought I'd go a different route, counting countries as I went of course .... I did geography in university! I decided my rule would be the 5th blog and this is where I ended up ....

#5 on my favourites list - the wonderful Fizzy @ Fizzy's nuthouse - fab post @ the moment about Pandora's box ... memories, good and bad from her life stored in a metal trunk! [country #1 - England]

#5 on Fizzy's blogroll took me to Evergreen - the blog of Kerri in south east Alaska - I love people's 100 things about me lists .... Kerri's is great! She loves ice-cream, has just celebrated her anniversary, also has a husband 12 yrs older than her - maybe we should swap tips - and because of her list I now want to try a 7-11 slurpee ..... is that like a slush puppy? [country #2 - USA]

#5 on the Evergreen blogroll is Home Fires - Lois Lane's blog!!!! Wow - Superman's real wife's blog!!! Lois and the kids have just been to the local carnival - I love carnivals and really miss the one in the town where I grew up. As befits a journalist with the daily planet the writing was brilliant - evocative, I was there with her as she spoke to Elvis! Go and find out about the kids, snow cones, cotton candy and her hives! [country #2 - USA]

#5 on Home Fires took me straight to Maria @ AEWIAML - does Lois know this girl is after her husband? Maria - an Extraordinary Woman in a Mediocre Life - is on my very own blogroll, after all .... we're both from Swansea and we both love shoes!!! Plus Maria understands when I chuck words like daps, cwtch and sglodion into my posts!! [country #3 - Wales]

#5 on Maria's blogroll took me to Too Much - raunchy dreams .... don't panic, no dirty details; mind you it was then left to the imagination and my imagination is foul!!!! [country #1 - England]

And there my trawl ended, Too Much had no blogroll to follow. So, 5 blogs & 3 countries (if I cheat and count England and Wales separately and not as part of the UK) - I wonder what would have happenned if I had picked #8???

In a fug!

I can' t think of anything to say! Blospiration all gone! Nothing exciting happening in life! And after all the "mingy-moany" fussing I did about lack of Broadband Internet access in France .... sheesh! I guess these are the post holiday blues then? *pulls self together sharply* I'll get there!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Unconscious mutterings #134

Unconscious mutterings

I say .... and you think .... ?

  1. Girlfriends :: Ruth, Su, Jo & Simone
  2. Here to stay :: blogs??
  3. Call me :: *singing* - Blondie
  4. Frustrated :: with an Epson printer that won't play ball currently!
  5. Public school :: system
  6. Glitch :: in the works
  7. Cheese :: and biscuits (ANY cheese and biscuits!!)
  8. Director :: Director's cut
  9. Pivotal :: vital, important
  10. Exclusive :: use

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Cook Next Door Meme

Stolen (what? Again? I hear you shout ...... yeh, yeh, yeh! I have been nicking for my blog since April 6th 2005 - Maria and Katya were the first of many victims!) This was stolen from Nicky @ Delicious Days!! The Cook Next Door meme - huge and in many languages - right, lets talk food!

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own? Not entirely on my own, Sunday afternoons, after our roast dinner when I was a kid - my Nana and I would make a Victoria sandwich/sponge from scratch. I still use her recipe - 6, 6, 6, 3 (6oz each of margarine, sugar & flour with 3 eggs and a splash of milk) eventhough I supposedly use metric measurements these days - Nana wasn't supposed to touch the mixture, she was there to do the dangerous bits (the whole gas oven thing) and the bits I didn't like - greasing the sandwich tins and scraping the bowl! Sometimes, if we were feeling "adventurous" we'd do pikelets instead, or rock cakes which my father would have to feed to the birds by Thursday!

Who had the most influence on your cooking? This is not actually anyone in my family at all, but instead two French women that I have spent holidays with / "lodged" with over the years. Jacqueline Bahi was the mother of my penpal Virginie when I was growing up - we (our families) met on a campsite in the Vendée in the early 1980s and used to spend holidays together. I stayed with the family at their home in Nantes and was always amazed at the effort that went into purchasing, preparing and eating each and every meal in that household! Every lunch was shopped for that day - vegetables and fruit inspected, chosen because they were in season and prepared with care and love. Jacqueline's husband was from the Cote d'Ivoire so once a month a boat visiting Nantes would arrive with a friend / cousin as part of the crew from the Ivory Coast and delicious pots of West African fish curry would take the place of melon du pays, salade de tomates or sardines. Staying "chez Bahi" shaped a part of my life and gave me a life long interest in gastronomie.

The second influence was another French woman but this time a friend of my parent's - Monique Agostini was a nursery school teacher @ the local primary school, mayor of the village and secretary of the local twinning association - which is how my mother knew her! Monique made the most wonderful food, never sat on the couch, always @ the kitchen table and cooking was her life - coq au vin (which took two days and two full bottles of wine per chicken to make), stuffed vegetables, roasted salt-fed lamb with garlic and rosemary, chicken (or rabbit ) Marengo to name but a few! I lived with Monique and her husband whilst I worked in a tourist office near Bordeaux. I shared some extraordinary meals with them - I remember one "fete de Reveillon" meal (New Year's Eve) lasting 7 hours and we danced around the dining table between courses and a wedding that lasted 4 full days! Some nights there would be a knock at the door late at night, (no I promise not to start singing "I'm the son of Hickory Holler's tramp! ..... But if you insist!!) and there would be a friend who had hit a deer whilst driving home. Monique, Jeannot (OH) and the friend would disappear out to the garage and for the next couple of days we would eat roasted / casseroled roebuck - delicious!

Do you have an old photo as “evidence” of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it? I have a couple of photos, but they're mainly of me eating and not cooking. I asked my mother why this was and she said "there just never seemed to be a camera around at the time!" No answer to that really!! So here you go .... a mini-me or two, eating!

lunch at the beach circa 1970/71, that's me in the foreground with the sandwich
Christmas lunch circa 1975, can you not tell by the wallpaper?

Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat? I'm not overly keen on scaling/gutting fish. I know how to do it, but .... well .... you know! I just would rather the lovely lady @ Tescos did it for me.

My most used gadget is :: kitchen tongs from Australia via Steve in work and his Mum in Brisbane - fab! And my Sabatier 6" knife - sharp as hell ... I use it everyday!

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else! Philadelphia cream cheese and strawberry jam on thick cut white bread/toast! I really like sweet & savoury mixed together - hot smoked mackarel with gooseberry compote is a favourite, but I also liked warm baked ham/rare duck with panfried peaches!

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without?

  1. Onions/garlic/shallots; who can cook without onions or any of the other members of the family? [You know I mean the other members of the onion family right .... I wasn't talking about Simon and my brother!!]
  2. Steak/red meat once a week - everyone (health professionals) say I shouldn't eat red meat often - but I love it and once a week can't hurt, can it? I do try to make it steak and not minced red meat; or lamb fillet - lean, not too fatty and I like it cooked very, very rare - bleu if possible. Simon says it looks like a massacre on a plate - but I just adore it!
  3. Sainsbury's make a lemon dessert that I have once a fortnight - usually on a Friday as it is horrible "dinner duty day"! It's creamy, thick and very lemony and has a curl of very, very dark chocolate on the top. Jo (who I work with) and I buy a two pack and retreat to a corner and don't speak and just eat! I always use the smallest tea-spoon I can find to make it last as long as possible, close my eyes as each spoonful melts on my tongue and really savour the whole experience! You probably ask why I eat this "delight" in work and not at home with my darling husband - well, I took a box home once and he ate his with a dessert spoon in 3 mouthfuls - and I realised he just wasn't appreciating it properly - not giving it the respect it deserved .... charlatan heathen animal!

Bonus Questions - I will probably never eat :: tripe again - bleugh!!!!

Favourite icecream :: good quality chocolate &/or French coconut ice-cream. Oh and whilst we're @ it lemon sorbet - really lemony, sharp enough to give you goose pimples!

Signature dish :: I make a mean bacon (lardons or pancetta) and green bean salad with a warm balsamic vinaigrette; there is never any left over. Simon and my father have been known to fight over the empty bowl with a chunk of bread!

What piece of equipment don't you have that you'd like :: a wooden lemon juicer, I keep looking!!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Unconscious mutterings #133


I say .... and you think ....?

  1. Fan :: fare
  2. Scum :: pond
  3. Lily :: pad
  4. Humid :: hot and steamy weather
  5. Ghetto :: blaster (oh boy did I show my age then!)
  6. Remember me? :: how would you remember me? Hints? Blonde, Welsh, teacher?
  7. Polished :: to perfection
  8. Compose :: music
  9. Squish :: slug (there was this really awful moment when late one night I trod on one standing in front of the kitchen sink - barefoot! Su and I had been out and had a skin-full .... it was so nasty I threw up!)
  10. Future :: France?

We (you and I) questionned ...... she answered!

As you might now, last week was my Mum's 60th birthday - had a great party on Saturday night and I left her with a couple of questions to ponder whilst I swanned off to the Basque coast for a couple of days! So, here are her answers - she pondered long and hard!

Mum, Dad and Simon's mother
  1. If you could be anywhere in the world at this moment, where would you be and why? On a beach in Tonga - they like big women there and I love hot hot weather, sea & sand!
  2. Looking back over your life, what was your "best age"? Why? 28-38, I was young, slim, had 2 lovely kids - who unfortunately gre up - uggh! I had a great job & both my parents were still alive!
  3. What 3 things in life could you simply not do without? Red wine, chocolate and my old man!
  4. What opportunities/chances in life (if any) do you regret not taking? Learning to speak French - I gave the subject up in year 2 at grammar school.
  5. If you could have any present for your birthday (money & fantasy no object) what would you choose for yourself? A flash 3 wheeler scooter motorbike - like a Harley made into a trike! [It should be noted she's a speed freak on the lawn mower!]

And thanks to you for your questions **

Fi - What's your opinion on all this blogging malarkey? Great if you have the imagination and time - wonderful for a nosey mother like me!

Sara Lisa - What's the first thing you noticed about Jo after giving birth to her? She had a big head and a dreadful scowl; also she didn't have a bridge to her nose to rest glasses on! [This makes me sound deformed - the situation is not that bad guys ..... I just push them up a lot/wear contacts!]

Walker - What is your opinion of how things have changed from when you were a child to the way they are today? I don't mean the political side of things just life in comparison * Everyone I knew was relatively poor, few ordinary people ate out, went on holidays or had a car. Even so all our neighbours were friends and I called them Aunty & Uncle; old people were looked after by neighbours and kids ran errands for them. Kids were happier eventhough they didn't have computers, gameboys etc - it was a safer more caring world!

Fizzy - What do you like most about living in France? The wine, food, fantastic night skys, the peace and feeling of being safe and secure. [Fizzy - they live in France's black triangel - no light pollution the night skies/stars are incredible!]

Katya - When are you starting your own blog? Never - Sorry, too lazy, too busy reading other peoples'. [She'll be on to yours' now Katya!]

Tom - Don't you wish you could just ground your daughter when she get's a little out of hand or do you have that power even now???? There have been times since she left home when I have tried to "control" her - but now she is fantastic - simply the best, so I don't need that power! [Tom, me? Out of hand?]

* Congratualtions to Walker for the question she had to think over the most!!
** Lilac = my asides!! Well I was always going to ..... wasn't I?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

A little party! A few important questions!

On Tuesday it'll be my Mum's birthday - Happy 60th Birthday Mum!
lots of love
Jo & Simon

Unfortunately I won't be here (au Laquet) to celebrate - I'll be @ the beach, sunning - "surf's up dude!" So we are having a little party tonight ...... a few nibbles, a couple of drinks, a glowing BBQ - an 'Opa!' or two!

However as a little homage to my Mother and her daily reading of my blog ....... I was gobsmacked when I found out too!! I decided to bring back the interview and have given her 5 questions to answer as she comes into this her 60th year / her 7th decade (God guys, she's going to kill me for that!) I am posting the questions* here now - she has them on paper and I shall post her answers next Sunday when I get back. Until then - hope you all have a fab week and a few photos to chuckle at!

  1. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be? Why?
  2. Looking back over your life, what was your "best age" - the one you enjoyed the most? Why?
  3. What 3 things in life could you simply not do without?
  4. What opportunities/chances in life (if any) do you regret not taking?
  5. If you could have any present for your birthday (money & fantasy no object) what would you choose for yourself?


Mum (on the left)

mum at Barry Island 1953

Mum in Jersey

*If you have any questions of your own you would like to add - feel free to include them here. Any that "the mother" does not think are acceptable will be ignored (by her) and then deleted (by me) :o)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A little excited this morning!

UPDATE - 12th August
Had a thoroughly enjoyable time painting and "God bless Flickr" - she's finally given in to dialup!! Hurrah So here you go - very poor even for first attempt - but I had fun!

mountain callled .... who knows in Spain!

Mum and Dad's chums Chris and Sandy live in a little village near "Chateau de la Treyne." Both are originally Londoners but have lived all over Southern England before making the move to the banks of the sunny Dordogne! Chris is a talented carpenter and also paints/exhibits/sells watercolour paintings ....... and today *drum roll* I am getting my first watercolour lesson! I am VERY VERY EXCITED! *breathes calmly and deeply* Have a fab day!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Unconscious mutterings #131


I say ... and you think ... ?

  1. Complexion :: potions and lotions!
  2. Teach :: teacher - me!
  3. Back to school :: September
  4. Months :: of the year
  5. Nominate :: "And the nominations are ......"
  6. Favorite curse word :: buggeration (said in a Yorkshire accent!) &/or bollocks
  7. Concerned :: citizen
  8. Better :: safe than sorry (My Mother's mantra!)
  9. Escalate :: the situation
  10. Unveil :: statue

Move, now!

I don't know whether or not I've told you but my dad's a recovering alcoholic - the 80s and early 90s were a bad time, but he's been dry for 11 years and I'm incredibly proud of him for that "feat!" He still goes to AA meetings whenever he can and in fact the reason they chose this part of France to live in is that there's an English language meeting just down the road every Saturday afternoon! Last week, he needed another meeting, so my mum and him went on a jaunt on Thursday afternoon to Vic-Fezensac ..... 190km south of here to another English language meeting.

Simon and I got the house to ourselves ........ and being on our honeymoon (well, technically speaking this is the first holiday since we got married) what did we do for 7 hours? Yes, you guessed it - we went out to eat! We chose a favourite local restaurant - le Petit Relais and arrived @ 7.30 to be shown to a table on the terrace. This is a fantastic restaurant ruled by "Madame" with a fist of iron - you wait, with a drink until she is ready to come and take your order and if you arrive after 8.30pm without a reservation even if there are empty tables on the terrace - forget it!!

Anyway, ensconed with aperitif - kir (me) and a pastis (Simon) we settled down to peruse the menu. Foie gras or melon? Coquille St Jacques or trout with almonds? Duck breast with pepper sauce or fillet of lamb with garlic cream? Decisions, decisions! As you can imagine when we did order the food was fabulous, from "la patience" (little quiche, caramalised walnuts and chunks of melon wrapped in air-cured Bayonne ham) to nibble on with our drinks to Simon's "Tiramisu" ice-cream sundae! Yum! And then the bill arrived and let the games commence!

Someone, usually Simon (because he's got the biggest hands) covers the bill and we both guess how much it's going to be! I don't know why we do this ..... but it's become a tradition! The winner get's to choose ...... umm - never mind (my mother/sister-in-law/mother's friends read this!)
Simon - €76
Me - *counting frantically* Wine, 2 meus, aperitif ..... €101
Simon - well you can give me €30 change then!
Me - what? Let me see! ["Madame" had only undercharged us €33, approx £23 / US$40 / CA$50 / NZ$59!]
Me - Simon, get-up, pay and run!
Simon - what?
Me - don't argue! Stand-up, pay and move now!

Cheap - moi? Mais non!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Je suis allé à la fête

Chaque été les habitants de petits (et grands) villages Français organisez une soirée où ils mangent, boivent, embrassent, bavardent, causent, rient, pleurent et dansent! Bienvenue à la fête!*
Monday night was fête night - always a bitter-sweet evening for me; the #1 social evening of the year in most small French villages - the night everyone waits for with baited breath! The night when you really and truly realise that an united Europe is an absolute impossibility!!

My parents have lived in Lot, France since January 2002 and whilst everyone is very welcoming, they are very much still the newbies on the block ...... after all what's 3 & 1/2 years in one place if your next door neighbours have lived & farmed in the area since the 14th century (ok, ok a slight exagerration but you know what I mean!) The small, quiet, safe, rural, village where they live is idyllic, if you want a small, rural, quiet, safe and secluded life! They spend their days pottering - don't get me wrong, they're not old per se, but they like to potter (god, my mother'll kill me for that one!)

But, once a year, along comes a social event the like of which you have to see to believe! Everyone in the village and surrounding cantons tries to support the fete in each village. When I arrived in France on Friday we went to the "Gourdon by Night" festival (similar but on a slightly larger scale) ..... I thought of you all as I sat eating salade de gesiers and foie gras, sipping vin rouge de Cahors, surrounded by good friends and family in the evening sunshine. The old limestone buildings around me were golden in the light and it was warm and there was music and mmmmm! Sorry, where was I?

Ah yes la fête, my mum had booked a table for 20 - yes I mean EVERYONE goes! The tables are outside the "salle de fête"**, everybody sits at long wooden tables on rickety wooden chairs alongside neighbours, families, friends & complete strangers. Some people (the lucky ones on wet evenings) get to sit under the long plastic tunnels that are put up just for the occaision. Old regulars send the youngest child over midway through the afternoon to write the family name and number of people on the white paper table cloths - ensuring they have the table they want! Everyone knows everyone else ... except the "newbies" - but they know more and more people each year.

There's a glass of "punch" as you arrive - a sangria kind of mixture, red wine, fruit juice and something else .... I'm always too scared to ask what the something else is :o) And then, eventually, finally, 2 hours later there's dinner - after all this is France, you need time to gossip, chatter and then of course there's the kissing! Dinner this year was lovely - but I'll eat pretty much anything @ least once - we had salade de gesiers (gesiers = gizzards, little bits of duck :o) I can hear the squeaming from here!), followed by cassoulet (a famous French bean stew from Castelnaudry - beans in a tomato sauce, with conserved duck, thick garlic and pork sausages from Toulouse and belly pork), local goat's cheese and ice-cream washed down with gallons of local red wine!

So when you are round and replete, full of good food & drink - out come the accordions and the dancing starts! And this is where "dreams of a United Europe" disappear with a puff of smoke - forget the euro and the common agricultural policy ...... Europe will never unite because us from the UK don't dance like this! Everyone knows how to waltz to accordion music in France .... old & young, trendy & not, farmers, bakers & even the candle-stick makers! They're spinning around the dance floor like tops; my nephews are looking @ me as if I (as the teacher in the bunch) should grab the nearest teenager; shake him/her and ask "does your street cred mean nothing to you?" And then as the first song finishes EVERYONE claps and another piece of music starts. I can't tell the difference from the first piece, they're still playing accordions; but it is obviously different as they all dance a completely different dance - all in time with each other! And then the third dance is the "traditional village dance" - this tiny little village of less than 300 inhabitants has it's own dance - a strange cross between line/barn dancing and the birdie song - you had to be there!

Shawn (nephew #1) and I walk home @ 12.05 to watch a film [I couldn't keep the "mental cruelty to all teenagers" campaign going any longer], the rest of the family trooped in 2 hours later - the music carried on until 5am. Good grief these villagers know how to party! I would love to show you some pictures right now BUT Flickr can't cope with French dial-up. I'm going back to bed now - tomorrow night is the Mechoui (traditional lamb roast) - I need to build my strength up for the dancing :o)

So, let me ask you a question(s) -

  1. Does your village / town / city have an annual celebration that you attend? If so, what is it?
  2. What could your "locality" celebrate with a party that it doesn't?

*Every summer, the inhabitants of small (and big) French villages organise an evening where they eat, drink, kiss, gossip, chat, laugh, cry and dance! Welcome to the fête!
**In the UK this would be a church/village hall.