Wednesday 30 November 2011

D is for ducks.

Picture the scene.................

The Senior Partner and I are walking our dogs, Ben and Fleur,
on the path close to the river bank.

We turned down a track and caught sight of a large pond,
in the middle of nowhere,
that we hadn't come across before.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: Look at all those ducks on that pond, and it's hunting season, too!
SP: They're decoys.
Me: Of course they're not, they're real.
SP: Why aren't they moving then?

Trusty Lumix in hand, I walked nearer to get a better look.
He wasn't wrong!
Can you see, on the right, the overhanging roof of the blind
 where the hunters lie in wait for the real wild ducks to land?

This is the entrance to the blind, on the land side.
 I tried to get inside to get a "birds eye view"(!) but it was locked up tight!

Handing in my D assignment to Mrs Matlock
 for Alphabe - Thursday
Hope it get's an "A"!

Jenny Matlock

Monday 28 November 2011

Poor Old Mr Ben!

My little dog - a hearbeat at my feet.
Edith Wharton.

Our sweet little cocker spaniel Ben has been under the weather recently.
A quick trip to the vet's last week resulted in
a 15 day course of antibiotics, for a undiagnosed infection of all four paws,
and a disinfectant foot wash for every other day;
 a five day course of medicine for an ear infection
(which made him ill between 2 o'clock and 4 o'clock every night for 5 nights!),
 sterilizing ear wash and ear drops;
plus his annual vaccination against rabies.
We also had his eyes tested and picked up another bottle of eye drops
to replace the tears his poor old eyes have ceased to produce.
Quite an expensive visit but he's so worth it!

As you can imagine with all of the above to deal with
 plus those 5 nights without much sleep
there hasn't been too much time left over for blogging.
So, I thought I'd let you know
 that my very good friend Sarah @ Hyacinths For The Soul
has written, today, about her visit to us here in Normandy.
Maybe you'd like to pop in and see us all there?
My November Book Reviews are on my other blog
just books
if you're looking for something to read during the holiday season.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Seasonal Sunday.

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent 2011 and since I'm nowhere near ready to decorate or even bake Weihnachts Plaetzchen this year I've decided to repost my first Advent Sunday post from 2010.

As today is the First Sunday in Advent I'd like to share a little of my story with you, and introduce you to a wonderful friend of ours.
In 1984 Mr B's career took us to Bavaria, Germany.
We left all our family and friends behind in the UK to start a new life in a new country. Scary.
We threw ourselves wholeheartedly into our new surroundings, making many German friends in our neighbourhood and amongst his work collegues, but the most important friends we made were our landlords and next door neighbours Herr & Frau Wilde.
Over the years we shared many wonderful times with the Wildes, celebrating not only high days and holidays but also day to day life in Pöcking, a small town on the shores of Starnberger See.
Frau Wilde (never Traudl, never "du") sort of adopted me as the daughter she never had.
She taught me many things, like how to play bridge, she is a fanatical bridge player and to this day, if I ever get the chance to play, I always find myself bidding in German! (Vier pik!)
We spent many an afternoon sitting in her "winter garden" as she helped me improve my embroidery, knitting, and German conversation skills all the time enjoying her "kaffee und kuchen".
From top right: Our house
 a favourite woods where we walked our dogs,
Feldafinger Strasse.
The snow season in Bavaria starts around the beginning of December and during our first winter in Pöcking she taught me how to cross country ski on the local golf course in Feldafing.
Did I mention that the lady was born in 1918?
Frau W & me 1991
Perhaps the one thing that Frau Wilde taught me which touched me the deepest was how to celebrate Christmas the Bavarian way,
Her Weihnachts Plaetzchen (Christmas biscuits) such as Zimtsterne and Springerele were legendary.
And so on this First Sunday in Advent and in honour of a much loved lady, I'd like to invite you to "kaffe und kuchen" my way.
My Adventskranz 2010.

Sadly, fresh evergreen wreaths are not easily found here in rural Normandy and so once again this year, a "faux" wreath decorated with white poinsettia flowers and silver pine cones surrounds four classic white Church candles.

The china service is Rosenthal's "Classic Rose" in white, which with its silvery grey design and gold trim complements the Adventskranz beautifully.
Napkins: Spode Christmas tree. (was sonst?)

For you to enjoy during the Adventszeit
 old fashioned mincepies 
and lebkuchen, a very simple iced biscuit similar to gingerbread.

Joining the Tablescaper for Seasonal Sunday # 76
 with this nostalgic look at Christmas past.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Hampton Court Castle - revisited.

Yesterday, I received a surprise email from a member of The British Red Cross Spring Garden Event Committee, Debra Tritton is her name.
It seems that she had come across a post that I wrote back in May about the day the Senior Partner and I had attended the BRCSGE 2011, at Hampton Court Castle in Herefordshire.
Here's a link if you would like to see it: here.
If you google BRCSGE 2011, my post is #6 in the list, who knew?
In 2012 the event is to be held at Berrington Hall, Herefordshire and Ms Tritton very kindly invited me to get in touch with her should we decide to attend the event there.
The Senior Partner and I have already made plans for a vacation next May and it won't be the UK, so sadly we won't be able to go to Berrington and revisit that amazing National Trust property and enjoy one of their amazing cream teas.
I took another look at the May post and enjoyed the event all over again and realised that although I promised to show you the inside of Hampton Court Castle (click on the link to go to the HCC website)I never did write that post.
Well, better late than never!
So sit back, with a cup of your favourite beverage and enjoy a virtual tour of inside Hampton Court Castle.

Warning there are a lot of pix!

The first room that you enter is the Great Hall (pix 1-4)

There are long corridors filled with suits of armour,
 coats of arms, pikes, swords, guns and trophies.

The authentic mediaeval chapel is licensed for weddings.

One of the bedrooms and a large bathroom,
with monogrammed towels.

Another enormous bedroom.

The massive central stone staircase (next 3 pix)
 complete with stuffed lion!

How would you like to celebrate Thanksgiving around this magnificent table?

The Library.

I've added some links in the above text if you would like to learn more about Hampton Court Castle,
they tell the story much better than I can!
If you are ever in the area I can highly recommend a visit to this very quirky and original place.

Joining Bunny Jean for
why not hop on over and meet some new bloggers?

Wednesday 16 November 2011


As I set off for a walk the other afternoon I noticed that a neighbour, the farmer who's cows are in the fields surrounding us, was out in his orchard collecting apples with his young family.
Imagine my delight when I got back home to find a bucket of apples by the front gate.

After picking them over and washing off the leaves and grass I seperated them out, some for eating and some for cooking.
Chutney is something that I enjoy making especially at this time of year, so I gathered the rest of the ingredients together and got peeling!

The French word confit can mean any type of food that is preserved.
A tomato confit goes well with chicken and an onion confit is great served with goats cheese, a balsamic vinegar will deepen the sweet/sour flavour of both.
The English word chutney, derived from the Indian word chatni,  has become one of the UK's favourite condiments and is never far away when a curry is on the menu.
Here's my quick and easy recipe for a spicy apple chutney, equally good with English cheeses such as cheddar, cheshire and white stilton or a French cheese like camembert or brie.
It also goes well with ham/gammon, pork, cold roast chicken/turkey, ideal for Christmas leftovers.

Here's what to do..............
8oz onions, chopped
2lb apples, cored & chopped but not peeled
4oz sultanas, raisins or dates, chopped
half a teaspoon each of ground coriander, mixed spice, paprika and salt
12oz granulated sugar (I used half white, half golden)
three quarters pint (or one and a half cups) of vinegar.
(I used a special pickling vinegar this time but you can use malt vinegar in this recipe also).

all the ingredients into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan (if you have a preserving pan all the better!) slowly bring to the boil and cook until the sugar has melted.
Then simmer for two hours on a low heat (keep an eye on it from time to time, so it doesn't burn on the bottom) until it is thick and sticky.
To test if a chutney is ready, I always follow Delia's advice.
a wooden spoon and draw it quickly along the bottom of the pan if it leaves behind a channel that doesn't fill up immediately with liquid then it's ready!

If you like your chutney a little less spicy you can amend the quantities of each spice but don't leave out any one spice completely or it will upset the balance.
Decant the chutney into sterilized jars, seal and store in a dark, cool place for 2/3 months before eating.

Joining Mrs Matlock for Alphabe-Thursday
 where you will find lots more C words
Beth Fish Reads
Weekend Cooking
The Tablescaper
for Seasonal Sundays
Click on the links or sidebar buttons (you know the rest!)

Tuesday 15 November 2011

A Sunday walk with a difference.

On a recent dog walk we were surprised to find ourselves
 sharing the lanes and tracks with some unusual traffic.

Urban cowboy!

I don't know where they came from or where they were going.
Were they on the way to a competiton, in training, or simply good
friends out horse riding and carriage driving together?

What a great way to see the countryside!

All I do know is that it was lovely to meet them all,
 however briefly, on a Sunday morning in Normandy.

Joining Susan @ A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday
Bunny Jean for Wednesday's Bunny Hop.
Click on the links, or sidebar buttons, to visit our gracious hosts.

Friday 11 November 2011

Lest We Forget.

Today's date is 11.11.11.
 Armistice Day
which marks the anniversary of the ending of hostilities of World War I, at 11.00 am in 1918.
It is a French public holiday and schools, banks, post offices and businesses are closed.
Poppies flowering this week in my Normandy garden
To mark the occasion, in our small village, flowers will be laid at the base of the Calvaire which stands at the crossroads opposite the Marie's office.
A two minute silence will be observed at 11.00 a.m.
This fitting tribute below can be found in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux.

Click here to see a recent post about the Cathedral

This weekend, on the Sunday nearest to Armistice Day, in towns and villages all over the UK people will come together for Remembrance Sunday.
Local dignitaries, ex service men and women from all of the services, members of  the Royal British Legion and Boy Scout and Girl Guide troops, will lay poppy wreaths of remembrance at their local War Memorial.

The National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall is a unique expression of national homage devoted to the remembrance of those who have given their lives in war. It was originally conceived as a commemoration of the war dead of the First World War but after the Second World War the scope of the ceremony was extended to focus on the nation's dead of both World Wars, and in 1980 it was widened once again to extend the remembrance to all who have suffered and died in conflict in the service of their country and all those who mourn them.
The service at the Cenotaph is framed to ensure that no-one is forgotten. The wreath laid by The Queen and the other tributes placed on the Cenotaph are dedicated to all who have suffered or died in war. Members of the Cabinet, Opposition Party leaders, former Prime Ministers and certain other Ministers and the Mayor of London are invited to attend the ceremony, along with representatives of the Armed Forces, Merchant Air and Navy and Fishing Fleets, and members of faith communities. High Commissioners from Commonwealth countries also attend the ceremony and lay wreaths at the Cenotaph.
Source: The Royal British Legion
In June of this year I was lucky enough to spend an evening in the company of two World War II veterans, at an event to mark the 67th Anniversary of the D Day landings.

Click here if you would like to see that post again.

Click here to go to the website of Woodlands School in Kent, UK.
Their Calendar of Special Events and Celebrations is extensive with categories covering Daily Life, Customs and Traditions and Etiquette in the UK, to name but a few.
It is a wonderful source for everyone, not only children, and describes what Remembrance Sunday means to us all.

Wear your Poppy with pride!
(poppy images courtesy of

Thursday 10 November 2011

A swarm of French B's.

clockwise from top left:
bombarde & biniou musicians on Quimper faience
clockwise from top left:
broderie decor on Quimper faience
blue shutters
I trawled my photo archives and strolled around town at the weekend
to find some very Frenchy B's
week deux of Mrs Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday
@ off on my tangent
 where the letter B is the star today.
Click on the link to join in the fun.
Jenny Matlock

In 2010 my B post for Alphabe-Thursday was all about our dogs.
Click here if you'd like to meet the gang.