Hare-raising

I had finished the endless rounds of cleaning up mud and grass that, no matter what I do, ends up throughout the cottage and was sitting on the couch catching up on e-mails (and getting side-tracked by wonderful card making dies and stamps on the net) when the Dear One walked in boots and all..oh well….
Now one thing I have to explain to you is that my Beloved is a true Country Boy at heart but, after years of the rat-race and city life, has only just discovered just how ‘country’ he is.  Together, we have discovered just how beautiful the countryside of France is, how much it has to offer and how slowly it tangles it’s serenity into your soul, allowing your mind to find tranquility and peace.

In he walks, and announces he has brought me a present. No, not a bunch of field daisies or the first daffodil of Spring but like and excited boy pulling a frog out of his pocket, with the flourish of a magician, he pulled out this tiny baby ‘rabbit’ and plopped into my lap.

What on earth? He explained that he was driving the big tractor through the fields on the far end of the property and was pulling the cutting plateau at the back trying to get some sort of control on the brambles and nettles that were growing in wild abandon all over the place.  As he passed, he saw this little bunny hopping aimlessly around in every direction.  He left it (as leaving your footprints on nature as small as possible is a good motto) but on his return, it was still there, out in the open, hopping first in one direction and then another.  My Beloved has a marshmallow center when it comes to animals in distress so he got off the tractor and walked up to it.   He could see it was very young and very thin and it didn’t run away when he scooped to pick it up.

Given the unique grand name of Thumper from the start, weighing inwe weighed it and the breathing, living ‘scrap-of-nothing’ weighed just 120 grams.  We’ve looked after bunnies before when we found them and their dead mom bit they were quite big, already eating grass and we didn’t keep them long before releasing them into the woodpile.  I thought Thumper looked a little ‘different’ and was pretty much convinced that it was a hare and not a rabbit.  This created a few problems because rabbits are born in a burrow, blind, hairless and helpless.  When they venture out of the burrow, they’re dependent.

But a hare is different.  A mom Hare will have one baby in a hollow dent that she makes in the sand.  Quite a way away, she’ll have another one and may have three or four in quite a large area.  The babies are born with hair that is speckled black, brown and beige like the surrounding grasslands and they know from the beginning to keep really still during the day and wait for mom to come and suckle them, one by one at night. We’ll never know why this little one was out and about.  Perhaps it got a fright on hearing the tractor, left the safety of it’s shallow bed and got lost.  From it’s size and still crinkly ears, we gathered it was no more than one or two days old and when we presented it with fresh young dandelion leaves, we realized then that it was too young to eat greens.

Hastily searching the Net yielded the recipe of watered down milk in syringe. Et Voila! Or baby drank its first meal. After having told the Owner of the Chateau about our new addition (he was due to visit that weekend) he came back to us via email to say he had been in contact with an expert on all things hare and rabbit and was advised not to feed the little thing cows milk as they are lactose intolerant.  Greatcropped-baby-thumper.jpg!  Thumper seemed to be thriving on it but, he said, it will seem all is well but it will die suddenly after a week or so.
The alternative?  Kittens milk (yeh right!) or Goat’s Milk.  That we could do so off to the local supermarket and armed with said milk, we continued the hourly feeds.  Thumper started to put on weight.  Yay!

Bisous
M

 

 

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‘Hare’-ey History

My husband and I are from South Africa and we’ve been living in France for four years now, a year in Brittany and then, just in the right time, we got a job as Estate Managers and Guardians of a Chateau in Normandy with 55 hectares (about 110 acres) of gardens, orchards and forests.(Our journey here can be read on https://footpathtofrance.wordpress.com/)

There is a lot to do here, tourists hire the chateau, farmhouse and grounds in the summer for a week at a time.  If the Chateau is hired, it sleeps 18, the Farmhouse sleeps 10 and then there is the Pool House which can act as a function room as well as games room and has two bathrooms and a separate kitchen.  There is a loft which houses my Holistic Aromatherapy Massage and Reflexology room and a lounge.  My husband and I are often called upon to provide meals for all that stay here – a Continental french breakfast, country family dinners or a beautifully plated evening meal for special occasions.Chateau

We have a Character-French Gardener who comes 4 and half days a week in true French-I-Will-Only-Work-35-Hours-a-Week Style and the rest of the time, it’s just the two of us and our two dogs from SA, Tass and Ted.

It’s a wonderful life if you’re a Country Bumpkin (and fortunately we both are) and for me, the Spring, which is absolutely breathtaking, comes at just the right time – just before my soul finds the grey skies of winter – beautiful as it can be – a little much.

We’ve had a few critters and creatures that have come into our lives for a bit of T.L.C before leaving again.  Birds that hit the window need a bit of sugar-water mixed with a tiny spot of brandy, salamanders that fall like bright red and black or yellow and black rubbery jewels into the swimming pool, stray flocks of sheep that wonder aimlessly through a hole in the fence and into the Chateau Gardens, a mother bird that insists on making a nest in the postbox every year needs a sign of privacy put in French telling ‘Madame Poste’ to please put the post and parcels in the black bin provided and not into the post box, an Tawney Owl that flew into the Farmhouse through and open window and needed help getting out, bats behind the Chateau shutters that needed relocating, a blind cat and then of course the rescue a swarm of bees that flew into the chateau, lost and confused by the strange number of Queens that swarmed with them. They needed to be gathered together and placed safely into a new wooden hive hastily bought from the local ‘Agricol’ shop (and a quick panicked lesson from YouTube on exactly how we go about doing it!)

And then Thumper the Hare entered our lives….a ‘Hare-raising’ baptism of how to take care of a tiny, weak 1 or 2 day old baby European hare that just managed to miss the blades of the tractor while my husband was cutting the fields (from now on my husband will be referred to as ‘The Dear One’, ‘The Beloved’ or, on occasion, ‘The-Not-So-Dear-One’)….

But more about that incident next time.

Bisous
M

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There IS a Reason – Take Two! (I pressed publish by mistake!)

So as I was saying – I’ so sorry about the previous half-story – I meant to click ‘save’ and pressed ‘publish’ ….mmm…just proves the ‘little grey cell story’ I was telling you about…

So to start over…

I looked back to my last post and discovered it was in January!  And to make matters worse – it started off with ‘I feel bad, so very very bad…’  so I can’t very well start this one off in the same way now can I?  BUT…it doesn’t stop me feeling that way and I really am sorry…I hope you are still with me and haven’t wandered off down another way more interesting footpath, and to be honest, I wouldn’t blame you if you did!

There IS a reason though – so bear with me while I explain….In  January (when I last blogged), I had an epiphany!  I felt I needed to learn something new, to expand the brain and, to quote a famous French Detective – Monsieur Hercule Poirot – ‘get the little grey cells working’.  I figured that if I did that, I would learn to ‘be out there’ a bit more (I’m not a l limelight person and the Dear One has been known to tell me I ‘lurk’ in the background – not sure that I like the work ‘lurk’, but I guess it’s better than ‘skulk’…) and perhaps meet a few people who needed my help, or better yet, learn a bit more french.  So – to cut a looong story short, I am now a Qualified Holistic Massage Therapist, Hot Stone Therapist, Aromatherapist, Reflexologist and Certificates in Ayurveda Indian Head Massage and the  ‘piece de resistance’  – non-invasive face-lift massage therapy, which is pretty cool with incredible results.  Now I tell you all this, not to brag, but to try and give you an insight into how many hours of ‘practical’ work this all needed and how problematic it can become when you have no idea what it all is in the French Language.  I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish – I met lots of new people who had to be ‘case studies’ as I kneaded, massaged, stretched, pushed and pressed my way to passing each exam.  I improved my French, even if some of the new words were mild expletives and I worked the grey cells so vigorously I nearly burnt them out.

Now is the above not a reason?  Let me add to it then…if that wasn’t enough, visitors to the Chateau seemed to want more and more creative dinners and deserts.  I thought I’d better expand the patisserie horizon (and in doing so, not expand my waistline)

That was where I left off so let me continue…
So I bought two ‘Be a patisserie Chef at home’ type books and got to work and it has been such fun!  From layered mouse desserts to madelines, raspberry mille feuille with white choccie ganache and choucettes – all these wonderful french delights have exited my tiny kitchen – a 2 meter x 50 cm surface, a 50×50 cm fan oven and a kitchen table.  My electric beater has never worked so hard and at times slows down as it wades through batter, butter and Italian meringue but together we make it to the end of the day without too many mishaps.

So between cooking up a storm for up to thirty guests at the chateau, massaging them and organising the linen and laundry, life has been a bit busy – hence the REASON for not blogging.  But it’s good to be back here again, hoping you’re still on the other side, and hopefully I will be back sooner rather than later.

In between all of that, my two nieces spent 6 weeks here so there was sight seeing to be done, Paris to visit a few times and a very welcome 5 day break down in the Dordogne area, a favourite place of mine – and we went in the middle of a heatwave not experienced in the last 12 years so we boiled and melted around the sites.

The good news is that I can finally and unconsciously understand conversations between two french people who are standing behind me in the supermarket queue or if they greet and chat to each other within ear shot.  It’s still a bit fast but the overall meaning is clearer now which then means it’s much easier to make phone calls and explain stuff.  It’s a very subtle progress but its there and thanks to that small step, I don’t feel quite so ‘alien’.  That. together with the fact that we’re often at the Friday morning market with guests, has led to a good portion of the store holders at the market yelling out ‘Bonjour’ when they see me. or they call me over to chat about something new they’ve grown or have on their stall or ask how we are.  It makes France feel a little more like ‘home’.

So – next week is a very busy one and after that, I’ll try my best to get back here.  I have lots to tell you, a few deaths happened around the chateau grounds, new life was discovered in the lavender bushes and more ‘thank you’ macarons had to be delivered to neighbours.  The dear one is still busy and decided to try his hand at making four of the bushes around the fountain into giant topiary ice-creams before mentioning it to the owner…oh and after 9 years.., the Beloved got the fountain working.  But that’s all for  next time, I can smell that the guests dinner needs some attention so I will end off here.

Take care, thank you for your patience, tell me your news
A la prochian (genuinely)
M
x

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there IS a reason!!!!

I looked back to my last post and discovered it was in January!  And to make matters worse – it started off with ‘I feel bad, so very very bad…’  so I can’t very well start this one off in the same way now can I?  BUT…it doesn’t stop me feeling that way and I really am sorry…I hope you are still with me and haven’t wandered off down another way more interesting footpath, and to be honest, I wouldn’t blame you if you did!

There IS a reason though – so bear with me while I explain….In  January (when I last blogged), I had an epiphany!  I felt I needed to learn something new, to expand the brain and, to quote a famous French Detective – Monsieur Hercule Poirot – ‘get the little grey cells working’.  I figured that if I did that, I would learn to ‘be out there’ a bit more (I’m not a l limelight person and the Dear One has been known to tell me I ‘lurk’ in the background – not sure that I like the work ‘lurk’, but I guess it’s better than ‘skulk’…) and perhaps meet a few people who needed my help, or better yet, learn a bit more french.  So – to cut a looong story short, I am not a Qualified Holistic Massage Therapist, Hot Stone Therapist, Aromatherapist, Reflexologist and Certificates in Ayurveda Indian Head Massage and the  ‘piece de resistance’  – non-invasive face-lift massage therapy, which is pretty cool with incredible results.  Now I tell you all this, not to brag, but to try and give you an insight into how many hours of ‘practical’ work this all needed and how problematic it can become when you have no idea what it all is in the French Language.  I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish – I met lots of new people who had to be ‘case studies’ as I kneaded, massaged, stretched, pushed and pressed my way to passing each exam.  I improved my French, even if some of the new words were mild expletives and I worked the grey cells so vigorously I nearly burnt them out.

Now is the above not a reason?  Let me add to it then…if that wasn’t enough, visitors to the Chateau seemed to want more and more creative dinners and deserts.  I thought I’d better expand the patisserie horizon (and in doing so, not expand my waistline)

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Guilt, Lentils and the world…

I feel SO bad…so very very bad…. It seems so long that I’ve posted on the blog that I have to find my way around WordPress all over again!  Shocking..and I truly am sorry.

BUT, in my defense, since I last blogged I seem to have managed to do some extremely strange (and wonderful) things.  I’ve teetered on a stepladder trying to reach a corner of the wall to paint it and too lazy to get off the stepladder and move it (I’m not good on stepladders so once up up, I’m pretty much glued there) and in stretching too far, managed to stretch my shoulder half out of it’s socket.  People, don’t do this!  It is extremely painful, not to mention stupid.  I have braved my fear of being lost like Air Malaysia or plummet like Air Asia and I went home to Cape Town where I got myself lost in a very dodgy township, ended up bright red, slightly hysterical with hair standing bolt upright at the appointment and feeling more than a complete idiot.  I have dragged my suitcase, and I mean literally dragged it because unknown to me, the wheels and bent inwards and weren’t even touching the ground, around the airport wondering why it was getting  heavier and heavier.  I’ve helped the Not-So-Beloved push a huge and heavy car – which is actually a 4×4 but in Normandy mud it became a 1×2 – out of the mud..not once, but twice and managed to pull the muscles in my back and in that state, went off to Austria to teeter down the ski slopes until I found my ski legs.

In between all of that, while in South Africa, I went to have ‘lentilles’ fitted.  Lentils you say…no Lentilles!  French for contact lenses.  Since then, having found them on my collar, searched for them in the bathroom basin and had them pop out in the middle of Woolies while clothes shopping I can see why they would call them that, they do resemble a lentil.  Now this may sound odd but I have always found that wearing sunglasses makes me feel a little ‘out-of-touch’ and almost deaf.  It’s very weird and it takes a while to adjust to the fact that I have some form of blinkers on.  So what, I thought, would my new lentilles feel like?  I felt for a bit, as if I was underwater.  They didn’t scratch, they didn’t hurt but they did make me feel a little vague.  Is this normal??  So vague in fact that when I was sitting in the airport in Cape Town to fly back to Paris, even though I was there two hours before, I managed to get to the gates about 5 minutes after they had closed.  Not only had my lentilles reduced me to a bewildered and blurry person, but my watch had stopped as well.  When I finally got through the gates and headed for the airplane door, my knickers were in a total state and I was beginning to feel slightly sick with nerves.  I arrived, once again, red in the face with my hair standing straight up, but this time, clutching my stomach to try and soothe away the feeling of loosing my casually eaten sandwich of just moments before.  It didn’t end there.  On seeing me in this state, the air hostess (who wasn’t particularly charmed with me) proceeded to ask me whether I had a fever and had I come into contact with Ebola!!  I crawled into my seat with the help of a very kind and sympathetic air host who handed me a glass of water and told me not to worry, they were still waiting for two other late passengers….. I wondered if they’d just got lentilles fitted too.

And then a few weeks after that, we left for Kitzbuhel in Austria and our timing couldn’t have been better.  We flew three days after the Charlie shootings and ‘je suis scared’ let alone ‘je suis Charlie’ but all was ok – there were lots of police milling about in Charles du Gaul but everything else was quiet.

I encouraged the Dear One to at least try to ski once.  So many people never get the chance and it’s good for the brain to try something new.  This would be my fifth time on the slopes but I still prefer the more gentle ones so being on the baby slope again until I got my ‘ski legs’ suited me just fine.  I still remember my first time skiing, after leaving the baby slopes we went to the top  and together with fellow wobbly learners we made our first run down a ‘proper’ ski slope…only when I reached the bottom, I found that the usual learners snow plow that you do in order to stop wan’t working for me very well and stopping was becoming a distant happening.  The restaurant building was looming ever closer, the ski’s had a mind of their own, the four steps leading up to the restaurant were covered in snow making a slight uphill slope.  There was only one thing left to do.  I yelled at two very startled gentlemen as they came out of the restaurant
“Open the doooooooorrrs………………..!”
With a look of horror at seeing this apparition with a giant pompom garnished hat descending at full tilt toward them open them they did and I sailed into the restaurant, slowing down as I reached the carpet and coming to a stop at the counter serving hot goulash.   I took off my skis and ordered..with some hot wine to go with it.  One needs something to calm the nerves you know.

But the Beloved did really well.  After telling me to let him ‘get on with it’ and watching him fall about 40 times while I tried to look the other way and not be too concerned, we exchanged a few ideas and I slipped a few technique tips and voila!  He was down the slopes looking great. The two year olds and up waited patiently  behind him at times but altogether, it was a great day and it’s lovely thing to be able to say ‘hey I tried!’.

Winter hasn’t been very quiet.. we may not have any visitors at the Chateau but painting, maintenance and general things to do still carry on and the days seem to fly past.  The owner of the Chateau wanted the wooden teak floor in the small study sanded down to it’s original and then sealed.  The job settled on me.  I got out the belt sander (waaay more vicious than a normal sander) loading it with paper and fired it up.  When sander met floor it shot across the room dragging me with it and getting my tea shirt stuck underneath it.  In a crumpled heap in the corner of the room, me, my tea shirt and the sander unwound ourselves from each other and started again.  Two hours later and a strip of about 50 cm completed (this was going to take a few days) I decided to call it a day.  I looked like a vertical desert.  Dry, dusty and an odd shade of pinky brown.  I rolled my clothes up ready for the next day – pointless washing them until it was all over.  After four days, my clothes embedded with dust, I surveyed the room with pride, trying not to notice the brown blue walls and non-existent light fittings.  I was just res chuffed to have finished at it looks great.

On a last note, making macarons is do-able in a Normandy winter.  The fussy little things that don’t like humidity, warm air, cold air being mixed too much, being mixed to little etc came out perfectly when I had to make a batch as a thank you to the farmer next door who eventually answered my 2 kilometer march to his door, my badly grammar-ed french asking for him to please bring the tractor to get the car out of the mud and his good humour at being interrupted whilst eating his lunch.

So – I will try my very best to write again soon, I’m currently completing courses in Indian Head massage, Indian Face massage and Aroma therapy massage and I have to practice on a few unsuspecting locals before I write the final exams..could be interesting…..

I hope you’re all ok, I hope you’re still ‘with me’ on the journey and haven’t moved on to more interesting and more conscientious bloggers….
Take care of yourselves and each other
A la prochaine
M
x

Now

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Coiffures and purple hats…

It was time for a change…and anyway, I had made a slight mistake with a ‘change’ of hair colour and it had turned a subtle shade of green….brown green……

So with much hoo-ing and haa-ing I took a chance on a different hairdresser in the village and decided to go short and hopefully get it back to the usual blonde.  As with many villages in France, there seem to be an abundance of three services and our local village is no different.  As small as it is, there are 4 hairdressers, 3 optometrists and 3 patisseries.  It’s almost as though you need to ‘see’ your new haircut REALLY well and the either celebrate or commiserate it with a pastry.  Either way, it’s become a joke between us to count the number of all three in the tiniest of villages.  I hadn’t had time to go to a hairdresser and eventually thought it might make me feel less frazzled after a busy Summer so I went to one..which was a total disaster as the whole salon was as quiet as a graveyard and about as serious..and the lady in charge attacked my hair with a ferocity that bought tears to my eyes.  So when I say ‘I took a chance on a different one’ I went there in slight fear and trepidation but armed with a photograph of what I was hoping it would look like..sort of.

When I stepped through the door and walked inside, it was to be met with violet walls and a vibey relaxed atmosphere.  The hairdresser came towards me with open arms saying ‘Don’t worry!  I can speak English’ which I discovered was the only sentence she knew.  And after being pampered with coffee, being told off for having green hair and for much discussion in fast french about the photo, she began by ‘returning it to it’s original colour’ and then ‘flourishing it with highlights’.  Cool!  I was delighted and we had a good chat.  I wanted to practice my French which I did, she wanted to practice her English, which she didn’t and we got on really well.  When I expressed my delight in finally finding a great hairdresser she informed me that ‘finding a good Coiffure is more important than finding a good husband!’ The Dear One wasn’t so impressed when I told him that but I came out of there feeling a million bucks and decided to go clothes shopping as well.

It’s weird how you have moments in life where something clicks and you feel a little more comfortable or at home.  It’s not very often that I get to go out totally on my own as the Dear One and I usually run various errands together and sometimes Samuel  comes along as well.  But there I was driving this giant sized Rexton Jeep along the country roads and attempting to park it (but carefully avoiding parallel parking!) I’ve got to the stage when I can chat a bit to the lady behind the counter or at least pass the time of day with the man who comes to fetch the laundry.  I have no idea of his name, all I know is that he and his wife own Normandy Pressing and they now answer to Monsieur and Madame Pressing which they find hilarious.  But they are a very sweet hard working couple in their sixties and fortunately they have a great sense of humour.

Anyway, as I was driving down the road, a ‘something’ was coming towards me on the pavement.  I couldn’t for the life of me work out what it was until I got a little closer and it seemed to me like a big soft toy ball on wheels!  The traffic slowed and so did I to just about a stop when it came adjacent to the car.  It was the dearest round elderly lady in a big woolly jersey and gracing her head like a dollop of jam was a floppy velvet purple hat.  Round eyes and button nose had been pushed into her moon face like currents in a bun and she was singing (or talking to herself) with a mouth devoid of all teeth.  Her bicycle, a battered piece of equipment held together with string teetered along the path at a speed so slow that it barely remained upright and tied to the back mudguard was a bright green plastic crate filled with cabbage leaves.  Funny, but it was at that moment that I felt a little more at home here.  She made me smile, she made me laugh out loud and she was everything that the French countryside is….strong, natural, peaceful, abundant, hard working and full of character.  I wished I could have taken a photograph of her, she’ll be with me in my memories for a very long time.

The beloved and I went to the market on Friday for the usual fresh veggies and to have a coffee in the shadow of the old church with the hustle and bustle echoing down the cobbled street.  We are known now and various store owners yell bonjour and offer a taste of something new.  We were looking for monk fish for a dinner party that evening so we approached one of the fishmongers who reminds me of the fish monger in Asterix with the unfortunate name of Unhygenix.  No he didn’t have any but his cousin might and he pointed two stalls down to a younger version of himself.  And that’s how it is… the market and villages are filled with cousins, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters.  All have grown up there, follow a similar line of work and get together for long summer evenings of gesturing conversations over cheese, wine and baguettes.  As we sat having coffee the young girl at the coffee shop came out with glasses of rose wine and past them down the rows of produce laden tables covered in colourful umbrellas (this is 11 in the morning) and the stall owners toasted each other with teasing and loud laughter.  It’s moment like these that you feel you’re finding a place in a brand new country, that you’re slowly being enveloped in a hug of local activity and are part of the ebb and flow of French village life. It’s a warming feeling as Autumn touches the landscape with gold, orange and copper.

On Monday I fly back to South Africa for a two and a half week visit and to catch up with family and friends.  It’ll be my first trip home in two years and I wish the butterflies in my stomach would fly in formation instead of giving me this fluttering mayhem feeling inside.  The Dear One is staying here with the mutts and will have Samuel for company.  The season is closed at the Chateau and we are looking forward to cosy evenings by the fire,, a chance to finish the cottage and do some indoor bits and pieces of maintenance around the Estate and for me to have a chance of facing my easel and pencils again.  We’re looking forward to the quiet.

For all of you along the path with me, whether you’re heading in to Summer or Winter, take care and ‘see’ you soon

A la prochaine
M
x

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Chateau Organised Chaos..semi

Well!  Yup, it’s been a while but it’s also been a while since I had time to sit…so now I’m sitting…and it feels great.  A lot has happened here in our corner of Normandy and the Chateau has been buzzing with a form of chaos..sometimes organised..sometimes not.  So what have we done…before I start..let me just check the cottage kitchen…the Dear One has decided to pick apples to make apple wine.  All great when said, not so great while being done…I can hear the distinct sound of muttered swearing, the containers are being banged harder and the chopping is getting fast and furious.  On second thoughts…I think I’ll stay here and hum while I type….huuummmmmmmhhhuuuuuuummmm.  Yup, that’s working…so let me carry on.

We have had a range of visitors to the Chateau and on the whole, met some wonderful people and had some fantastic cooking evenings.  Just one lot spoiled the season, left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth here, but that is par for the course I suppose and it’s best to move on and take what’s learned with you.  Being a bit of a softy makes me want to make everyone happy, but, as I’ve learnt, some people just cannot be made happy no matter what you do so I’m learning to feel sorry for them and put their rudeness into a bubble and blow it away..pointless them spoiling such a beautiful spot here at the Chateau.  But that was only one family for one week…not bad.  The joy comes from so many other directions.  We’ve just our first wedding here and it was so beautiful.  Small, elegant and a lovely group of people including one small jack russell named Jenny who thankfully wasn’t intimidated by Ted.

I have discovered the joy (and ease) of on-line shopping with google chrome.  The reason being is that with a touch of a key I can translate the entire page..which means I can understand what I’m buying….tres important when you need to buy flowers to make all the wedding arrangements including table, entrance way, chair bouquets, bridal bouquet and buttonholes!  I ordered the flowers to be delivered two days before the wedding and stupidly took on the main wedding dinner for 25 people which consisted of 5 courses as well as a buffet dinner for 25 for the night before.  Getting your ducks in a row on paper is one thing, getting them to stay in a row in reality is totally another.  The Beloved took charge of the breakfasts and table layout for the wedding dinner which looked amazing when he had finished.  I did all the flower arrangements the day before the wedding which left me the bouquets and chair arrangements to do in between making a crab entree, slow cooked duck with prunes and dessert. I had it ALL sorted.  Early on the morning of the wedding I topped up the arrangements with some water as the day was proving to be quite hot.  I turned my back, wandered into the kitchen in search of tea only to hear an almighty crash behind me as one of the large hall arrangements toppled over and came to a sad demise on the floor.  More flowers had to be bought and I had to start again from scratch.  But at the end of the day, tired was a word I don’t think I could have spelled if I tried but we had a very happy bride and groom and an amazing evening.

During the weeks we’ve done some weird and wonderful things.  The Dear One tried his hand at topiary to get the ornamental yews in the formal gardens around the fountains back into some sort of shape.  Armed with a small hedge cutter he set to work while Samuel the gardener and I watched on with a mixture of nerves in case the tree turned into some weird shape and excitement to see the poor shaggy neglected tree get back it’s perfect conical shape.  The latter won and they all look beautiful now.

I am still keeping myself in macaron mode and practicing regularly to make sure I still get them right.  I do.  My fourteen attempts to finally find the right mix, the right weather, the right temperature and the right method have paid off and they turn out well every time…except…..I do still have a few ‘moments’ while making them and the moments mainly happen while trying to get the mixture into the piping bag.  Now I kid you not, the mixture for macarons is INCREDIBLY sticky.  I think you could successfully build a boat with it and it would hold together with no leaks!  Ted sits under my feet while I cook (i don’t think it’s altogether affection, I think there is method in his madness as things just might drop from heaven for him to eat..and they do) and he inadvertently got some bright pink macaron mix on his head and back. To get it out an hour later when I saw it was a major mission which required scissors..we’ll say no more about Ted’s new hairdo…  But back to the piping bag.  The mix was done and instead of making normal macarons, I was planning on making them into an almost ‘mille feuille’ and using them as a dessert.  So there would be a macaron base but the macaron would be big – at least 8 cm in diameter, then a mixture of cream and french buttercream would be placed in the center, around that on the outside diameter would be raspberries and then the next layer or top macaron.  Cool, I had it all worked out.  I put the piping bag into a tall glass to hold it up and open and dropped the first dollop of macaron mix into it.  Great, next dollop, the bag closed in on itself.  With spatula in one hand and bowl in the other, I tried to nudge the bag open with the spatula but forgot to straighten the bowl hovering above it..a dollop landed on top of the folded bag.  Ok, …no need to panic…put down bowl, scrape sticky mess off outside of bag and try and open the bag to put the mess inside it.  Worked reasonably well but now there is a glue like substance inside the piping bag, outside the piping bag, inside the glass and outside the glass as well as on the spatula and in the bowl.  Never mind, take control by washing your hands.  That done, shake the bag, get the mixture to the bottom, reopen the bag and lift the bowl.  Dollop the rest of the macaron mix into the bag.  All goes well.  I turn to make sure I have papered the trays and can pipe the macarons.  I turn for literally 10 seconds if that and what happens?  My upright piping bag folds over the glass and deposits the bright pink sticky boat building cooked sugar mix over the counter, down the cupboard doors and onto Ted and the floor.  I was proud of myself…I said nothing….I just stared at it…..in a semi trance-like disbelief…..and the two mille feuille macaron desserts that I managed to save out of the remaining mix turned out perfectly…I will try again…some time…in the future…..when I feel brave…

I can smell interesting things coming from the kitchen now….and the muttering has stopped..things must be going well.  Talking of apples, they are falling all over the place now…there are a lot of apple trees and pear trees dotted around the grounds and one of the orchards is just outside our cottage.  It is a beautiful thing to wake up with the early morning ‘end of Summer’ mists draped from tree to tree and peacefully foraging underneath are the deer.  I still pinch myself that I live here…we are beginning to be recognised in the village by the butcher, the market folk and Mazoline, the hard working lady in the Patisserie welcomes the Dear One when he goes in to get the morning croissants and gives him a pastry or two as a gift for his ongoing patronage and support.  We get given new cheeses and cold meats to taste as we walk around the market so that we can add them to the Chateau meals and once or twice a small parcel has been placed on our table while we have coffee in the market containing a few tasty morsels of a home grown product for us to try.  It’s all very touching in a way and makes me feel humble to be part of such a wonderfully natural and kind community who take such pleasure in family and food and are willing to share it all with us.

We will be attacking the cottage garden and the Chateau fountain next…we’ve bought some roll on lawn (online) which will go into our garden as we don’t have time to let the grass grow from seed without me going mad with having two mutts bring sand and mud into the cottage and we’ve bought some water lilies (also online) to put into the fountain once it’s up and running.  I’ll let you know how it all goes soon…

It’s lovely having you there on the other side of the blog…talk to me if you can, I love hearing from you..and please, if you write a comment, come back and see…I try and answer or at least acknowledge your words as soon as I can.

A Bien tot
M
x

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