It seems a while since I sat in one place long enough to write .. so I’ve decided to steal some time in 15 minute increments and see how I go.
The Owner of the Chateau has agreed that a large combination woodworking machine would be a good asset to the Estate, mainly because the Dear One produces really good furniture and is great with general woodworking things…so, with the promise to produce a large bathroom unit to go to the UK, the go ahead to buy one was given. After ages of pouring over brochures and chatting on the Net and waiting for stock, it finally arrived two weeks ago. The delivery guy arrived, flustered with the short quick movements of someone meaning business. He parked his truck a mile away from the garage, not a good thing seeing the machine had to go right into the workshop and weighed 350 kgs. We pointed this out to him. He reversed about 10 meters closer (which left him at least 20 meters from the garage door), hooped out of the cab and with great efficiency, loaded it off using his pneumatic trolley device and plonked it on the gravel. We once again showed him the workshop door, said that’s where it needs to go and suggested we get the tractor with the hope that his pneumatic trolley thing could load it on to the back and then load it off in the workshop. This plan clearly was ours alone….the Dear One went to get the tractor and when we turned round to speak to the driver, he had hopped into his truck and was hightailing it down the drive as if all hell had broken loose. He drove as if he wore blinkers, if he didn’t see us, we wouldn’t see him and call him back. We stood there, mouths slightly open in total disbelief, looked at the huge wood crate in middle of the driveway then at each other and burst out laughing..it was either that or cry. Eventually, with a lot of huffing and puffing, we got the tractor to drag it through the muddy lawn and to the workshop door – leaving two trenches deep enough to hide and entire battalion of soldiers. And there the box sat until we could get some sort of winch to put it in place. It’s all up and running now and there is one very happy person on the estate! He’s in the process of making an oak fireplace surround.
Being Estate and Chateau Managers involves all sorts of tasks, from painting to looking after antiques, mowing the lawns to cutting hedges, “chef” ing to gardening. Life is never dull and there’s always something to do. We decided to breathe life into all the stone pots around the walls of the chateau and then to re-do part of the main garden beyond the fountains with roses and lavender. We have two weddings on the cards so we want to try and get the Italian garden looking good as it it the most romantic place to get married, perfect for a bride to walk down statue flanked steps and into a stunning walled garden..at least it will be stunning by the time we’ve finished with it…hopefully! We started off by taking out all the old soil in the pots and replacing it with gravel, a type of fabric to stop the drainage holes getting blocked and then good soil. I was balancing precariously on the wall ledge attempting to get some weeds out when the entire clump, equipped with soil, came out in my hand..along with two mice. I’m not scared of mice…the scream wasn’t fear..it was surprise….and after grabbing onto a crumbling bit of wall and regaining my balance, I discovered a small nest and two tiny mice babies. They must have been only a day or two old. Two minute pink creature that strongly resembled jelly-beans with liquorice eyes. And I had broken up their happy home. So the Beloved and I decided to leave that pot – it was half hidden in the hedge anyway and we dug a new hole and lined their nest with their old furniture of leaves and moss, then I gently placed the two babies inside. The next day I couldn’t bring myself to look and see whether they were ok…but the Dear One did…and the little nest was empty. So mom and dad mouse had collected their babies and taken them somewhere safe. I’m so glad.
I’m always looking for french recipes and ideas to make the guests stay a more interesting one as far as food goes. Of all the websites and blogs I’ve visited and read, the making of true french macarons in a tricky business that soon turns into an obsession…not to eat, but to actually making them right! You can always eat them..they’re good regardless of whether they are lumpy, flat little biscuits, whether they are too chewy or to crisp, whether they are slightly discoloured or have no “feet”..they are sweet tastes of heaven.
BUT, they have been described as “Diva” biscuits…impossible, touchy, moody, temperamental and in general..a pain. It’s an art the Parisian Chefs hold classes for and once you have mastered them, it doesn’t mean they’ll always turn out correctly. They also don’t like being cooked when it’s raining…and in Normandy that can be a little tricky..when would have a space of more than 2 days to bake macarons before a slight drizzle happens for an hour or two…. The secret lies in the oven temperature, the “macaronage” (yes, the French have a word for this delicate folding process that you can overdo by just one turn of the spatula and the little brat biscuits sulk and won’t come out properly). Most of my attempts – twelve so far… have been good – they’ve mostly all risen, they’re all cute little buttons even though they haven’t had that professional sheen to them….I’ve finally got the oven temperature just right. It’s the feet, those elusive “feet” that are always missing, that cute little frilly bit at the base of each macaron dome…and the shine. This weekend we have a group of twenty-two people on a mystery long weekend (only two people knew where they were going and what they were doing so there was a lot of clandestine planning and preparation before their arrival). In between cooking and baking, I had all the prep done to make some more macarons – I wanted to put two in each room but never got there – I had meticulously ground, powdered, measured and aged all the correct ingredients and I piped them out and popped them in the oven. And there they were….the perfect pale pink macaron with beautiful glossy domes and…yes….amazingly gorgeous frilly feet!! I was SO excited…The Beloved gave me a hug (I think he was just relieved the obsession had come to an end..) and I gazed at them through the oven door the way proud new parents look at their new baby through the hospital nursery window. And then one of the visitors called me through the open kitchen door to ask some inane question …and my perfect macarons burnt to crisp brown buttons. I was SO disapointed…so the obsession lives on.
In about two hours time…another yet attempt will be made! The Beloved has taken off…I wonder why? Oh and it’s begun to rain…a the challenge grows….
So for those who have asked to see photo’s of the inside of the cottage now that we’ve moved in I’ve attached some…thank you ever so much for your comments and interest…please go back to the blog after you’ve commented..I try and write back…and if I haven’t I’m so sorry….as soon as the season is over and this endless stream of people ends, hopefully my brain (and body) will be back to normal instead of chugging through the days in a kind of tired but busy haze.
I love hearing from you all,thank you for being out there…and I hope you’re all having a good weekend too.
Take care, chat soon