Wednesday, 28 April 2010

O is for Oliver (Jamie: The Naked Chef)

This week has rushed by, so much to do in the garden!
I had better get my skates on and finish my homework ready for Mrs Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday.The letter in question this week is "O".
I considered: Olive Oyl, Oprah, Orangerie, Opera, Ocean, Ordinary, Opulent, Over the top and Oeufs, en cocotte or souffléd?
That got me thinking about another Obsession of mine fOOd.
In the late 1990's a fabulous young man hit the TV screens in the UK with a completely different way of cooking.
His name: Jamie Oliver and the show was called "The Naked Chef".Who doesn't love Jamie?
He showed us how to cook restaurant style dishes in our own kitchens by stripping them down to basics and then adapting them. By doing this he says " I built up a foolproof repertoire of simple, delicious and feisty recipes".
One of the recipes from the first series has become a very firm NL favourite and I make it probably once a week during the summer months when the potager provides beautiful, succulent green and yellow beans in abundance.
"Tray baked Salmon with Olives, Green Beans, Anchovies and Tomatoes". Click on the link for the full recipe.
Jamie has of course gone to to become one of the UK's leading chefs, click here to go to his website and find more amazing food.
Staying with the foodie theme, a mosaic of breakfast treats: buttery croissant, tartine with apricot preserves, pain au chocolat and a walnut & banana muffin.Which One do you think is the Odd One Out?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Woo Hoo it's Outdoor Wednesday in the potager.

Last week Marla @Always Nesting launched a new meme which she is calling Woo Hoo Wednesday. It's another great place where we can all get together to celebrate home & life, something that I am always in favour of doing.
When I discovered this new meme I was tempted to link back to last Sunday when I blogged about the baby calves I'd seen, but after spending some time in my potager this morning I decided that as it was looking so Woo Hoo that I would show you what's going on there instead.
Pumpkin seedlings:
Runner bean, beetroots and courgette seedlings:
BTW for those who were puzzled about a vegetable that I mentioned in the last potager update: a courgette is what you call zucchini!
A potato plant:
Assorted lettuces and seedlings already planted out:

Another great weekly meme not to be missed is Susan's Outdoor Wednesday @ A Southern Daydreamer.Why not take a few minutes with your coffee this morning and spend it with Marla & Susan, tell them I said "Hi".
Tomato, chives and coriander seedlings:

Click here to see more of the baby calves and doting mothers if you missed them at the weekend.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Mosaic Monday.

For Mosaic Monday graciously hosted each week by Mary @ the little red house some shots taken during the weekend.

Brown speckled house sparrow eggshell.
Wild orchids in the lane.
Chaenomeles; aka flowering quince or japonica, outside the front door.
A gorgeous plant that I do not know the name of. (can anyone out there enlighten me? Jackie in Surrey perhaps?)
Japanese dicentra; aka bleeding heart, by the wall.
This week Mary has created a beautiful mosaic of horses from her local riding school, just stunning! You must go over and take a look.
Have a great week, everyone.

Sunday Favourites. My first blog post 24th April 2008

Chari@ Happy To Design is celebrating her 1st Birthday of Sunday Favourite Reruns today with a fabulous Giveaway.
Since yesterday was my 2nd Blogaversary I thought it might be nice to share my very first post which surprise, surprise was about my vegetable garden. My first love! I think I've learned a thing or two about blogging since then!!

"When we bought this house I inherited a vegetable garden and for a number of years I've been happy just pottering around and growing salad, beans, peas, courgettes etc. in quite a slapdash manner I must say!
This Spring, however, I'm trying to be a little more structured and so have had Sean (my new gardener) create 3 long beds dissected by a pair of paths using wood pavers
Today at the weekly market in Le Molay Littry I bought the first plants to go in the new potager. 4 sorts of salad; courgettes; tomatoes; cauliflower (chou fleur, so much prettier in French); beetroot (betterave); celeri and seed potatoes.
There will also be a section with herbs: parsley; coriander; rosmarin; wild garlic; basil; sage and mint (but in pots to contain the roots which would take over the whole place if planted in the soil).
In the potting shed I already have spinach; pumpkin and runner bean seedlings sprouting and when the soil has warmed up a little more I shall plant haricort vert and for the first time haricot jeune seeds straight into the prepared beds.
My bedside reading now is a gardening magazine and I'll welcome any tips that you feel will help with mynew project.
Check back for more info and hopefully, pix of my progress over the coming weeks."
Things aren't that much different in the potager two years on, except that I am growing a lot more from seed than I did back then.
Happy Birthday Chari!

Cows & Calves in Calvados, Normandy.

Today heralded the start of the vide grenier season in the Calvados region and so early this morning Mr B and I headed to a nearby village to browse the stalls. More about that in a future post, perhaps.
Some of you may already know that I love cows and can't wait for them to come back into the fields surrounding the house each Spring.
Imagine my delight when, as we driving home from the vide grenier, we saw this beautiful thing happening.

Mr B did an emergency stop (he certainly knows how much I love cows!) and I hopped out of the car to take these precious shots.

Hope you enjoy seeing these babies as much as I did.

Bonne Dimanche.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Happy 2nd Anniversary to me! We have a winner!!

Today I'm celebrating the 2nd Anniversary of my Normandy Life blog, with Mr B & Mr Ben and 43 friends who all said nice things about my Alphabe-Thursday M post. picked out #15 as the winner! "Happy Mrs C". who left this comment:
I would love to go to Paris and just wander and watch people. I make lemon meringue pies with meringue that high! it is really pretty easy, just use 4 egg whites a little sugar.
So now we know how to recreate the historic meringue that Mr B & I enjoyed so much in the Marais tearoom.
Mrs C please email me your address so that I can get your French cadeau on it's way to Lookout Mountain.
The past two years have flown by as I shared my ramblings of la vie quotidienne (daily life) in rural Normandy; learned new computer and photography skills; how to create mosaics; learned to love my slow cooker once again; gained the confidence to create a second blog, this time for the Quimper Club International and even how to tablescape!

To all the wonderful friends that I have made along the way a great big thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comments, emails, humour, camaraderie and support.
Despite most of you living thousands of miles away you are in my life, and it is a life all the richer for it!
au revoir from Normandie.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

N is for Napoleon for Alphabe-Thursday

I have just finished reading "The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B", the first book in a trilogy, by author Sandra Gulland. So surprisingly, my N post for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday meme this week is not about Normandy but Napoleon (Bonaparte).
My friend Sarah @ Hyacinths For the Soul has written several wonderful blogs about these books, read her Alphabe-Thursday J post here.
Of course I couldn't wait to read the books myself and promptly ordered them from Amazon.
We meet Napoleon towards the end of the book, in a paragraph entitled "In which I am introduced to a strange little man". Josephine was not impressed by the Corsican soldier, it was certainly not love at first sight.
She describes him thus: "a curious looking man with short legs and a big head. The man was remarkable. His long, limp hair hung down around his ears in a sorry attempt at fashion. His skin was sallow and his figure so thin his threadbare breeches seemed to hang. His eyes were large, grey in colour, striking. His teeth were good (Josephine's were not!) But there was an intensity in his expression that forbade levity".
I don't think it will spoil the story for you if I said that shortly after they met they were wed?
During the time that Mr B and I were refurbishing this big old house one of our favourite haunts was the Hotel de Vente in Bayeux where we purchased many vintage/antique items. One of my favourites was this print of an etching of Napoleon as Emperor.

I remember that Maître (the auctioneer) was very surprised and not too happy that his predominantly French audience was allowing an English man to acquire a portrait of Napoleon. Perhaps the Duke of Wellington and the memory of the Battle of Waterloo still lingered on? Click on the link to find out why it might be hard to forget.

I digress........... the portrait enjoys pride of place on the wall at the turn of the staircase and your eye is drawn to it every time you enter the house through the front doors.
Another very early purchase, after moving to France, this time from a depot vente in Cherbourg was this pair of plates finely painted with the portraits of Josephine & the Emperor Napoleon. (Double left click on all the photos to enlarge).

I know now that they were produced at the Pouplard Beatrix faiencerie in Malicorne-sur-Sarthe sometime between 1895 -1900, sadly I sold them before I discovered that fact!!
C'est la vie!
There is still time to enter my 2nd Blog Anniversary Giveaway, click here and leave a comment.
The lucky winner's name will be picked at random tomorrow, Saturday 24th April.
"Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever. - Napoleon Bonaparte.
I hope you've enjoyed my N post today, now scoot over to Mrs Matlock's classroom to see who else's name is on the register.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Garden shadow shots.

As I was passing by an upstairs window I noticed the fabulous shadows that the cherry trees already sprinkled with white blossom, the laurel hedge around the potager and the ancient old crab apple tree loaded down with mistletoe, were casting over the back garden.

Grabbing my trusty Lumix I took these shots before heading to the front of the house to see what was happening there.

The huge ornamental cherry which dominates the garden is about to "pop" into glorious pinkness, here and there you can see small flowers appearing, almost on an hourly basis. I was thrilled to see the almost mirror image shadow that this tree was throwing across the lawn.

When we bought this house there were three linden trees growing against the wall. Sadly, over the years, two of them fell victim to gale force winds which brought them crashing down, now only one remains to cast it's shadow across the driveway.

By the way as I sit here blogging I can hear a cuckoo in woods behind the house (first time this year), the house martins returned exhausted after their long flight from Africa at the weekend (I wonder if the volcanic ash slowed them down at all?) to their nests in the eaves of the garage, and everywhere I look the cows are back in the fields. WooHoo!!
I'm linking this post to Outdoor Wednesday graciously hosted by Susan @ A Southern Daydreamer who reminds us in her post that tomorrow April 22nd will be the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day.
At the weekend I'll also link to Shadow Shot Sunday held every week @Hey Harriet's Australian blog.
There's still time to enter my giveaway, the winner's name will be drawn on Saturday 24th April.
Click here if you missed the details.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Mosaics, Meringue, Marais, Monet & Maggie's giveaway.

Mrs Matlock's class is discussing the letter M for this week's Alphabe-Thursday and to be honest I was spoilt for choice when thinking about today's post.
One of my very favourite weekly meme's, which I always try to join, is Mosaic Monday @ Mary's little red house. It was through Mary that I came to learn about Mosaics and how to create them. Click on the MM link to see Mary's Crab Apple Blossom Mosaic today.
When I wrote to ask her advice on how to make my mosaics larger she very kindly shared this information:
"to make your square mosaics (or pix) large, click on "Edit HTML" and change the width and height to 800 pixels. Also, change the bit of code that says s400 to s800. Then click "Save." That should do it.
For rectangular images, the numbers are 800 and 532, and s800."
I followed these instructions and the results were very good however this only worked when I was using the Minima Stretch template.
With a three column template the mosaic was too large and was cut off on the right hand side. To make it larger for a three column layout change the first two numbers to 600 and the last to 800.
I use Photoscape mostly for creating my mosaics I like the large choice of layouts that it offers, you can also adjust the size at the same time which makes life easier!
When I blogged recently about our long weekend in Paris I received so many wistful comments, from blogger friends who had visited Paris and would love to return, and from others who still had a trip to the City of Lights on their wishlist.
If you didn't see those posts first time around then click here & here to read all about the wonderful time we had.
Here is a little peek into one of the Marais' best kept secrets, "Le Loir dans la theiere", a cosy and charming tea room in the rue des Rosiers.
If you ever find yourself in the Marais I highly recommend this quirky place with it's eclectic furnishings and decor.

I have never in my life seen a lemon tart with a Meringue as high as this! Historic! It was delicious and too much, even for two of us to finish.
Time to segue into My giveaway.
To celebrate two years of blogging, all the wonderful friends that I have made and all the interesting things I have learned along the way, I have gathered together some gifts that may bring Paris a little closer for one of you.

To start your day off beautifully, a large porcelain cup and saucer, transfer printed with black and white scenes of Paris perfect for any petit dejeuner.
A slim volume entitled "Verrines" - 30 recettes faciles", crammed with wonderful appetizer recipes and illustrated with great photographs, it is sure to awaken the "Julia" in you.
From my visit to the Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens a Book of Postcards of Monet's Garden at Giverny by Elizabeth Murray and finally a small notebook, featuring Renoir's painting of "Gabrielle et Jean" on the cover.
If there's space in the Colissimo box I may well be able to squeeze in a few more little souvenirs, who knows?
To enter the drawing for this cadeau français just leave a comment on this post only before the drawing takes place on my blog's 2nd anniversary: 24th April.
Bonne chance tout le monde

Sunday, 11 April 2010

12th April.

A taste of Spring in Normandy for Mary's Mosaic Monday @ the little red house and in memory of my Dad, can it really be two years now since we said goodbye, a mosaic featuring his favourite flowers, daffodils.
I'm also linking to Tracey's Weekly Words to Live By meme @ Notes From A Cottage Industry.

If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love.
Maya Angelou.

Do try and visit Mary & Tracey if you get the chance, I know you'll enjoy visiting both of these great blogs.

Hope you all have a great week.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Sunday Favourites, more news from the potager.

I had so many nice comments on my Alphabe-Thursday "K is for Kitchen Garden" post last week that for Chari's Sunday Favourites Rerun @Happy to Design today I thought I'd show some more of what goes on around the potager during the year.
Below is a post that originally went up last June and if you'd like to see even more home grown veggies click here for a post from the year before!

Some of you may remember from a post last year that a few years ago a pair of moorhens decided to make their home on the small pond next to the potager.
This year they produced just the one chick but it is growing well thanks to non stop feeding from the doting parent.
I feed them stale bread every morning, papa moorhen comes to the door & squawks until I go out.
Today I watched as he & the chick walked along the top of the garden wall, a first for the youngster.
6 times papa brought bread to the chick and 6 times the little beggar dropped it over the side into the field.
What a patient parent!

The vegetable garden is coming along well this year, the potatoes are great and may well take over the plot!
Thanks Sean!

We should be having blueberries with everything quite soon and the haricot beans are just beginning to flower which bodes well for later next month.

Courgettes are looking sickly (no idea why) but the bettraves (beets) are doing well after a shaky start.
We need rain!
Please do go over and join Chari for her Sunday Favourites rerun meme, there's always a lot of fun going on there.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Alphabe-Thursday L is for........La Métairie

I'm so excited to be joining in with Mrs Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday today, where the letter under the spotlight this week is "L", because the wonderful Julie Schuler @ My Good Babushka , a very talented artist and fellow A-T contributor, is offering a signed copy of her book "Ludmilla the Clown Went Missing" to one lucky participant.
Head over to Jenny's to find out more about how to win this great prize but first I must tell you about a wonderful shop that I recently discovered, La Métairie.

"La Métairie"specializes in "Decoration et Art de la Table" and is a place where I can easily lose track of time, admiring the displays and discovering one more "must have" item after another.
Will it be that beautiful hand embroidered linen cushion (pillow) sitting so prettily on the couch by the door, a set of stylish verrines to use for the mushroom appetizers I've been wanting to try, some mercury glass votive candle holders or a pretty "chemin a table" (table runner) for the dining room?
But wait, just look at this gorgeous white painted, wooden tray perfect for serving "DP's" outside on a warm summer's evening.
Well, dear reader none of these delicious items came home with me yesterday, because I wasn't shopping for myself.
I was searching for my upcoming 2nd Blog Anniversary Giveaway prize, I was shopping for you!

Now, head over to Jenny's and check out all those great L posts, but come back to Normandy soon to see the pretty cadeau that I got for you at La Métairie...................................

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Weekly Words To Live By.

I discovered a new (to me) blog last week, Tracey's "Notes from a Cottage Industry" and her Weekly Words To Live By meme which I thought I'd join in with #162, today.
"What a pity flowers can utter no sound! A singing rose, a whispering violet, a murmuring honeysuckle, - oh, what a rare and exquisite miracle that would be!
Henry Ward Beecher.

Have a wonderful week everyone.