Thursday, June 28, 2012

Vintage roadside find...

We interrupt the continuous hen broadcasts to bring you:
the fish-tail mirror on the right, found this morning in a damp plastic bag next to the glass recycling bins at our supermarket! It's battered and chipped, and the silvering was already going bare in places, so I took advantage of this freebie to try out a bit of upcycling I'd seen in Homes and Antiques last year. To be honest I rather prefer it in this original photo, to what I've done with it since:
Oh dear, have I ruined it? The thing is, it was already ruined, and sitting on the pavement next to a recycling bin. So why am I just a tad traumatised by what I've done to it? Eeek!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Holly is the young one - she's growing fast but she's not quite ready to lay yet.
She's very body-conscious, and always grooming, dust-bathing, or as you see here, sun-bathing. Son 2 was reaching out to shade her eyes - has ever a chicken had better treatment? Today has really been too hot for sun-bathing - 41° in the shade this afternoon!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Juliet and Son 2 get on very well. They talk to each other (in hennish, obviously). However, Juliet has yet to give us an egg...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Birthday Gratitude

Thank you for all your birthday comments! How very lovely to hear from all of you on my birthday...
Thank you to Son 2 for a vintage coffee pot (clever boy!)... he says it has a face:
Thank you to Son 1, for two ferns in the prettiest wrapping paper ever:
Thank you to Ben for orchestrating the whole thing, and for a DVD I really wanted (Sherlock Holmes with RD Jr and Jude Law...)
Thank you to my sister, for this lovely selection of pretty blues and greens (I wore the scarf for teaching today).
Thank you to family and friends for such pretty and cheering cards.
Thank you to a French pupil, for a hand-made birthday greeting!
Thank you to my father, for the wonderful card of 18th century teacups, and for another year of Country Living Magazine...
Thank you to God for our home, our family, our friends,

our food, our garden, our jobs and our hope for the future.

42 was very good. I'm looking forward to 43.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's my birthday!

One of our family quotes was started by my sister, 37 years ago:

"It's mine birfday! Happy birfday to me!"

We're celebrating quietly, as Son 1 has his own birthday and, more significantly, his Brevet exams, coming up next week. There will be a birthday tea and presents at the end of a working day... and part of my present is already here - I shall tell you about that later!

I leave you with a photo of the vintage ticking I picked up the other day, having an (unsuccessful) try-out on our sofa (looked good but scrumpled up too quickly).

I also leave you with two lovely blogs featured in my favourite magazines this month:

Emma from Silverpebble who's been a blogging friend for years now - how lovely to see her and my little silver bird pendant (or one like it) in Country Living this month!

Jenny from The Custards - how can I have missed her blog up until now? Fortunately, Homes and Antiques rectified this terrible situation...

So, two presents for you, but:

"It's MINE birfday!

Happy birfday to me!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blueberry and Vanilla Buns

These are a doddle! And I think I like them (whisper it) more than blueberry muffins...
You will need:

100g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing,
100g caster sugar,
1tsp vanilla extract,
2 medium eggs,
150g self raising flour,
half teaspoon baking powder,
100g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Grease 10 sections of a muffin tray, perferably non-stick. Or use paper muffin cases to line the sections. (Could I find my silicon cases after the kitchen re-organisation? No, I couldn't!)

Put the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, flour and baking powder into a bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy. Stir in 75g of the blueberries.

Divide the mixture among the tin sections (there's no need to spread it level) and scatter with the remaining berries. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until well risen and pale golden. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes then loosen gently and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Once again, the recipe is from a really fantastic feature by Joanna Farrow which I tore out of a back copy of Country Homes and Interiors. They are good for breakfast and tea time. And any other time..?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Blueberry and Feta Tart recipe

Thanks for your encouraging comments about my blueberry baking! The first recipe which was requested was the blueberry and feta tart. I'll tell you here how I cooked it, and then I'll give you the original recipe too - I adapted mine according to time/taste/budget/availablity...

You will need:

A roll of shortcrust pastry
1 egg, beaten
100g blueberries
1 small onion, sliced
25g butter
100g Feta cheese, cubed
100g soft cream cheese
1 small garlic clove, crushed
salt and pepper
1TBSP chopped parsley

Preaheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5.

Lightly grease a shallow, rectangular tin, measuring about 26cm by 21 cm (a shallow roasting tin will also work well). Put the pastry into the tin, and fold in the edges of the pastry to make a border. Brush the edges with beaten egg and bake for 20 minutes, using baking beans on a piece of greaseproof paper to keep the pastry base flat. Remove the baking beans and paper and scatter half of the blueberries into the case and bake for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the onion in the butter until golden. In a bowl, beat the Feta cheese with the the cream cheese, garlic, the egg left over from glazing the pastry and some seasoning, then stir in the fried onion.

Spoon the cheese mixture into the pastry case. Scatter with the parsley, seasoning and remaining blueberries. Bake for a further 20 minutes or until the filling is set. Serve warm or cold, sliced, with a green salad.

Original recipe by Joanna Farrow in Country Homes and Interiors a few years ago:
It called for 200g soft French goat's cheese instead of the cheeses I substituted. My family don't like goat's cheese and I had some Feta to use up! It worked wonderfully well...
Also the original recipe called for a separate egg for the mixture - I thought why waste the left-overs of the one for glazing, but with goat's cheese you might need a more precise amount of egg?
You can use lovage instead of parsley.
There was a recipe for pastry, which I would have happily followed on a less busy day, but I had some half-price (going out of date) pastry in the freezer and that was a good opportunity to speed up production on a Friday!
This allegedly serves 4-6 people but it's so yummy that I think they'd be disappointed by the small slice they got. It served three of us very nicely as the main dish of the meal.

I do hope you enjoy this if you make it! It's quick and easy - I made it between a number of other kitchen/family chores and it wasn't hard to find the time or the mental energy. Do let me know if you make it, please.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Blueberry baking

After the thrills of fresh blueberries on Thursday evening and Friday morning, I got down to some baking and produced:
Blueberry Vanilla Buns, Blueberry Superfood Flapjacks and Blueberry and Feta Tart.

Wow, they were good! In fact, although the tart disappeared between three of us yesterday evening (Son 2 was at a friend's), the other goodies are still with us, in steadily decreasing numbers. I'm about to pack up the last two buns and a few flapjacks to take round to the friend's family, when I pick up a tired Son 2.

All the recipes were adapted (you know me) from an excellent series in Country Homes and Interiors Magazine (2010 or 2011, not sure which). If you'd like any of the recipes, let me know and I'll share them.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


The sun has come back (thanks for your kind hopes in that direction) and Thursday afternoon is a time I usually try to spend with Son 2, who doesn't have lessons after lunch on Thursdays. What better way to spend time in mid-June sunshine than to cycle off together to the local blueberry farm?
We greeted Madame, the elderly mother of the farmer, as we cycled in though her rustic gateway. She was sitting in the shade, wearing a housecoat and a fine straw hat with a blue ribbon, reading a book. Another good way to spend a sunny afternoon! Son 2 and I picked 1.8 kilos of blueberries (and ate a few grams more) and had a throwing competition with a few unripe berries that had come off in our hands. He won, but I won the pickers' prize.
Interestingly, Son 2 doesn't actually eat blueberries. He's an arch-conservative of the taste world, prefering a very limited range of flavours and textures. However, he was tempted (who wouldn't have been?) to try the fruits of his labours, and asked if I thought it was a good idea. I encouraged him to give it a go, and to expect an unusual flavour, which wasn't to be interpreted as a bad taste... he popped a really ripe berry cautiously into his mouth and promptly had a dizzy spell! He and I were both mystified by this, but I suppose it may have been an adrenalin reaction to trying something new. He said the taste wasn't exactly that bad! Tomorrow morning (thanks to a cancelled lesson) I shall get baking...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Thanks for your comments about the white roses and other garden flowers in my last post! The roses are still in their first enthusiastic burst of flowering, so we are picking them whenever they are dry enough. (Which means not today, for sure!)
This is the first year that our roses have really flowered so generously. Ben pointed out recently that we've now spent longer in this house and garden than anywhere we've ever lived before. You can see from my life story, highlighted in the sidebar, that we moved a lot before settling here in France. It's lovely to spend long enough in a home to see things really develop - the roses we planted in the first few years are now repaying us lavishly, the veg garden thrives as Ben applies the knowledge gained from previous years... There is still plenty more to do, and the wonders of photo-cropping tend to show you only the pretty bits of our house and garden, whilst the reality includes barren earth beside a long hedge in the garden and the usual heaps of family-related junk around the home. But I am actually coming to love the reality, including the functional and non-beautiful stuff, instead of hankering after something picture-perfect. How about you?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Thrill of What You Already Have - June

I had difficulties, for the first time, in finding a version of the vintage Saint Andrews poster online - the only ones I found (see in my sidebar) lacked the vibrant peacock blues and oranges of the poster in my calendar. So here are some of those colours, reproduced in a plate previously on the kitchen wall, and in honeysuckle, rose and Californian poppy petals from our garden:

And here's the full arrangement, with a glimpse of the calendar inspiration in the background!
The 'vase' is something I already have which, frankly, has never thrilled me. It's a lovely big water jug from BHS, which I thought would be just the thing last year for meals in the garden - it holds lots of water, which we need in the heat, but is light enough for the boys to pick up and pour, because it's plastic. Minor drawback - the handle fell off when I washed it in hot water! I suppose the price was too good to be true... But now I suppose I have a really handy vase...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Some writing by one of my 9-year old pupils

Nine o'clock Beauty

A Saturday evening, the day of my year: beautiful, extraordinary, superb in every single detail. The trees swaying in the light, soothing wind, my Dad lying there in front of me almost asleep like a baby with toy rabbits on top of him as a joke. The waves in the pool rapidly repeating again and again, the stars like bright spots scattered on a black body. Lamp posts as gloomy and still as a startled rabbit in the middle of the road. The lamp above the patio with a curtain, creating an Indian palace for worshipping the night gods.

Quick note: He was working on this before the lesson started - it is very much his own work, written to capture a wonderful moment, and not much influenced by school or by me. I helped him keep the structure and encouraged him to think about rhythm - that's all.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Thrill of What You Already Have - June Picture

This month's picture seems topical - I'm constantly being engaged in conversation with French people on the subject of the Royal Family at the moment, and Saint Andrews seems to come up a lot:
Here are two different web-versions of the poster on my calendar. Mine is very strong and clear, with a lovely bright peacock-blue sea, which neither of these pictures seems to capture! But when I try to take a photo of my own, it really goes all wrong. So please enjoy the sand, the sea, the ancient stones and the prospect of golf and royal marriages just around the corner...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Vintage velvet and sequin crowns

On Saturday I mooched around a Vide Grenier in the shade of a Basilica church - life can be good! I found this extraordinary combination of black velvet and sequins,
and gold and silver tassels, too!
The sequins are (frankly) more wonderful than anything I've been able to track down on the internet - crowns, flowers and stars.
You can probably imagine that when I found the crumpled little ribbons, and stretched them out to see this strange shape, I was completely unable to work out what they actually were! I half-remembered a tiny set of braces that my mum made for my little sister when I was Gretel and she was Hansel...
but investigation at home shows that the right combination of hooks and eyes produces this sweet little collar!
It goes round my hand but certainly not round any neck in this family, so my instinct about it being for a child is surely right.
But what is it? As I've implied, my usually quite informative Google techniques have let me down this time. Beautiful white silk bows were worn for First Communion in France (I have one), but black velvet necklace/collars with sequins seem unheard-of. I'm working on the theory that it might be for a carnival costume, and a one-off. But I shall ask Kaari Meng, of the truly wonderful French General, if she has the time to pop over to my blog and have a look - she may be an expert in French fripperies but she is also a very friendly blogger, at The Warp and the Weft. If anyone can guess, it will be Kaari.
In addition to the mystery collar, I also bought some buttons (of course) a large piece of red striped ticking (my first), some more blue mottled enamelware and two vintage French tins. Mmmmmm...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why I AM Celebrating the Jubilee!

This mops up the topic of Why I Will Be Celebrating the Jubilee, which was a little series I did earlier this month. The final reason really is that there is so much tradition of royal celebrations in my family. Like so many of the rest of you I have fond memories of waiting, bored yet excited, to see the Queen's coach pass for the Silver Jubilee. Our house was full of royal memorabilia - I thought it all belonged to my Grandma and my Mum, but it turns out that a lot of it had been collected by my dad. Who bought this, though?
Isn't it wonderful? I don't have it - it's still at my dad's home.
It's very small, and probably lead, I suppose. But what a wonderful history of Britian can be followed through a collection of royal goodies!
I do have these at home - the George VI coronation book (charity shop last year), George VI coronation pin cushion (my mum's collection - I never saw it before I started sorting through drawers) and British tin (Troc Shop here, for some reason!) I'm more uncertain about modern British patriotic memorabilia, but you will note I generously allowed a Matthew Rice design to grace my collection...

Have a wonderful Jubilee weekend! We will be partying with Brits and (confused) French people at another English home in our town!