Pas dans mon assiette

“Not in my plate” – the way French say “I’m under the weather” or maybe, “not in a good place”.

That’s me, for the past couple of weeks, I’m afraid, which is why I haven’t posted as I’d hoped to. I’ve had a couple of busy weeks, with extra work, having to prepare & then mark school evaluations, but also with extra work caused by, but by no means the fault of, Mr FD. Unfortunately he had another recurrence of gout plus something else: a swelling and painful articulation in his wrist and elbow. This is something he has had several times, with the GP having no idea what it is, and guessing at an infection. We had hoped the rheumatologist at the hospital where he was earlier in May could help but he was ***** useless. This time Jérémie (our GP) sent him to the other rheumatologist who listened to the history, examined him carefully, asked questions…so we were there for a good 30 minutes instead of the 10 minutes given by Mr Useless. The (temporary) diagnosis is some kind of auto immune disease, possibly ^poly arthrose^ but it’s best to wait until the gout symptoms have died down before making a firm diagnosis. So Mr FD has another appointment in September.

For the moment, he can walk without pain (impossible last week), and his hand and arm are movable without pain, except in the elbow. But earlier in the week, I was having to do everything – he could just about dress himself, but it was painful, he couldn’t sleep lying down, as he couldn’t find a comfortable position, I had to cut his food up very small so he could eat one handed, and I was doing his household tasks as well as my own. This is not a complaint – in sickness and in health, after all – but an explanation. But coupled with my continual “just about holding it together” state of mind, I was tipped over the edge a couple of times, and found myself crying for no reason, or in a state of anxiety about nothing. Bof.

Anyway, things are better now: Mr FD is in better health & sleeping better, so he’s less snippy with me, so I’m less snippy with him; he can do more things (although he overdid it yesterday, changing all the litter trays and using the heavy floor cleaner) so I’m less overwhelmed; and I’ve finished (for good) at school, so I have less preparation/ marking to do. I’m a bit sad to have finished, but I definitely feel it’s the right time to do it.

So, let’s hope things are looking up, with summer approaching, and less work obligations.


Get (Celtic) Knotted!

“Get knotted!” was the “Piss off!” (or worse) of my youth. According to some sources, the idiom comes from the days when people were buried in shrouds rather than coffins. The body was wrapped in the shroud and then knotted at either end – hence the mild form of abuse – get knotted. Go away and die! According to others, this is rubbish and the phrase only originates from the 1930s. So who knows.

I’ve been getting myself tied in knots over some Celtic knotwork. I treated myself to this book

and have been working hard ever since. I enjoy it so much as it takes all my concentration so I can’t think about other things. I thought I would show you some of the stages in producing a design:

Stage 1: drawing the grid – the number of times I get this wrong is a bit depressing!
Stage 2: Using the book as a model, draw the guide lines.
Stage 3: It’s becoming trickier here. I stopped following the book’s instructions as I found they didn’t work for me. Draw the “ribbon”, following the guidelines, but carefully whispering “under…over …under…” leaving gaps on the “unders” to draw the ribbon as it passes over.

Stage 4: I’ve finished the outlining – look hard enough and you will, no doubt, see some errors. I’m still improving the uniformity of the width of the ribbon – you can see it is a bit variable still!

Stage 5: Using the gold pen to colour the ribbon has its advantages & disadvantages – it covers errors of over/under-ing, but it is thick and a bit difficult to control ink flow. I do like the red/gold combination though. It looks very Celtic!

Stage 6: I have to outline both ribbons, but especially the gold, to neaten the edges. Otherwise it looks unfinished. I was undecided about whether to colour the empty spaces black and finally made the decision to do so, as you can see. As soon as I had, I wished I hadn’t!

Here is the finished item:

I’m reasonably happy with it – I am certainly improving as I continue, and I love doing it. So that’s good.

Here’s another Celtic knot I completed recently for a friend:

Again, look hard enough and you’ll see errors, but I think it looks quite impressive!

As Yet Untitled…

Thank you everyone for your comments and advice: it really is much appreciated! I decided to take the shortage of anti depressants as an opportunity to try to wean myself off them. I was shocked at how I felt a few months back when I stopped taking even half a tablet a day – I really was having withdrawal symptoms, so thought it might be a good idea to try to stop. However, after about 5 days of just taking 1/4 of a tablet, I decided to go back to my half tablet a day! I couldn’t deal with the weepiness/ panic/mood swings I was having. Who would have thought a quarter of a tablet could make such a difference! However, due to my “frugality”, I now have enough medication left to keep me going until my appointment!

Mr FD is better – he is still limping when walking, but went back to work on Tuesday. He is in the office until next Monday but then he is finishing. He has about 2 weeks worth of holiday to take, so after Monday he will no longer have a job! It’s his choice, as the job has changed since he started, he’s not enjoying it, he’s bored and doesn’t like the management style. He plans on doing some DIY through the summer, and then looking for short term contracts to keep him occupied. Whether it will be easy to find work, I don’t know, but we are lucky enough not to have to worry too much about money coming in, as he has already started to draw down his UK private pension.

Weather here is quite drizzly and chilly – my fault, I’m afraid, as I changed my wardrobes over at the weekend! It’s not a job I enjoy, because there’s always a mountain of ironing to do, as clothes have become creased sitting in a box. I did about an hour this morning, but I still have a fairly substantial hill of ironing still to do! Last Sunday was very wet here, but we had some great “African rhythms” in church- we have a group of Nigerian Masters students here at the moment, so they led us in the music. Another member of the congregation who had lived and worked in Nigeria wore an outfit she had bought there. I wore my summer “jungle print” trousers but was definitely chilly round the ankles!!

(Reasonably) healthy eating is going on, but as I feared, now Mr FD can prepare his own food/desserts he has lost the plot a bit. I made some banana muffins with some brown “leopard” bananas, the idea being one muffin would make an appropriate dessert with a piece of fruit. Yesterday he had two muffins, a yoghurt and some strawberries as his dessert. I can’t say anything (or, I don’t want to say anything because I fear he would get snarky with me) and anyway, he’s a grown man, and can make these decisions for himself.

Anyway…that’s the news where we are! Nothing very exciting, just pootling on.

Oh! It was Lucky Jim’s birthday on Tuesday – at least, I found him on 16th May last year, and the vet reckoned he was a week old. So we took May 9th as his birthday. I made him a birthday hat but he refused to wear it. I sneaked it on his head when he was asleep.

Plans still awry!

So, Mr FD has been struggling to do very much. The rheumatologist was really unsympathetic, and didn’t listen to anything Mr FD had to say. Apparently, he just said “It’s gout. Lose 30 kilos. Exercise more.” Even though Mr FD had questions to ask, this guy wouldn’t listen. So that was a waste of time EXCEPT for the fact he got a prescription for avoiding-a-recurrence-of-gout tablets, as well as dealing-with-the-gout-now medication.

However, on Thursday evening, Mr FD’s lower leg began to swell again. Although he wasn’t worried too much that it was a re-occurrence of the phlebitis, we felt it prudent to go back to A&E to have it checked up. It was confirmed as the gout causing the swelling so the advice was just to keep taking the tablets.

The swelling and pain has finally started to reduce, which is a relief, and he can move around a bit more without squeaks of agony being emitted. It’s a bank holiday on Monday, so he may be fit to go back to work by Tuesday. We’ll see.

Thank you, A, for the link to the Mayo Clinic’s site. Bizarrely most of the “trigger” foods are things Mr FD doesn’t eat or drink EXCEPT the sugary foods. Aha, therein (probably) lies the problem. It’s true he (and I) needs to lose weight, so I’ve instigated a diet. Perhaps A can tell me if there is anything that rings alarm bells for her.

BREAKFAST: either Muesli, yoghurt, dried cherries, milk OR 60g wholewheat bread, peanut butter, yoghurt, fruit

LUNCH: either a salad, or scrambled egg/beans on toast, or a reduced amount of bread and cold meat/cheese. (He used to eat a lot of charcuterie, but I’m limiting it to 30g in total meat &/or cheese) Plus fruit & one biscuit/ cereal bar


WEDNESDAY: Stir-fried chicken and vegetables with brown rice. /Greek yoghurt red fruit fool.
THURSDAY: Veggie lasagne Salad./ Rhubarb & peach fool. Melon
FRIDAY: Rice & mushroom stuffed peppers with mozzarella. /Rhubarb crumble & Greek yoghurt
SATURDAY: Veggie burritos with mozzarella topping & Gk yoghurt / Rhubarb crumble
SUNDAY: Pork steaks, roast potatoes, veg, ratatouille sauce /Rhubarb crumble
MONDAY: Kamchatka & sweet potato wedges. / Greek yoghurt red fruit fool. Melon
TUESDAY: Thai chicken curry with sticky rice / Fruit salad
WEDNESDAY: Lemon garlic salmon, noodles, veg./ Melon & pineapple  
I’ve decided to try to keep to a regime of three vegetarian meals, two chicken, one red meat, and one fish (usually salmon) per week. The problem lies in that once he’s mobile, I won’t be preparing his breakfast & lunch meals, so whether he will keep to the recommended weights & measures & amounts is anyone’s guess! However, I’m going to be sticking to it on my part (except for the sneaky pieces of chocolate from time to time in my study! But it’s no more than one square every two or three days!)

At the same time as all this, I’ve been having to cut down on my anti depressants (having to? Not sure….) I came to the end of my prescription, in that it was for renewing for 6 months, and I had just collected the last lot of medication. I trotted off to the surgery to make an appointment to see the doctor for the next prescription. At the surgery the rule is that for a renewal of a prescription, the appointment is 3 weeks in advance , which is fine. But somehow the secretary made a mistake and gave me an appointment for 4 weeks in the future. I don’t have enough anti-depressants to last me. I know I could go back and ask for a change, but the surgery is so busy, and we’ve taken advantage of Dr Lacour’s generosity with Mr FD going back and forth, that I’m trying to make my tablets last. Instead of half a tablet a day (my usual dose) I’m taking a quarter of a tablet. It does, but I am seeing some side effects – I’m weepier, I’m less tolerant, and I prefer to be alone. Which isn’t great when one’s OH requires you to run round after them for everything (and I do know it’s not his fault! There’s no blame attached.) so I’ve not been as sympathetic to him. Ah well. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.

Anyway. It’s the Coronation today. And I’m not watching it on TV. But I may make a Coronation Chicken (Lite) salad for lunch!

Not quite according to plan

This week, including its planned menus, didn’t happen as expected.

On Monday morning Mr FD woke with a pain in his calf. Thinking it was a muscle strain, he went to work. In the evening it was more painful. On Tuesday there was an odd rash to go with it, so he went to see the doctor, who diagnosed the rash as an infection (probably thanks to a cat scratch) and the calf pain as…well, possibly a thrombosis, so better go for an ultrasound just to be on the safe side.

So Mr FD hoiked himself down to the Clinique for an ultrasound, while I stayed at home to teach a lesson and to cook dinner. Meanwhile Mr FD was taken for a scan, and then admitted into the hospital with phlebitis and a possible embolism on the lung. Oh, that was a surprise!

I went to see him on Wednesday – he was told he would be there, under observation, until Friday morning. He was in good spirits and not much pain, which was good. Prescribed with thigh high compression stockings he came home on Friday. Unfortunately, the stockings have caused other pains (possibly rheumatoid arthritis?) to flare up, but he has an appointment with the rheumatologist tomorrow. He also thinks that his gout has recurred, so walking is extremely painful for him at the moment. In fact, sitting or lying are also not great, as I think the pain is there whether pressure is exerted or not.

Food-wise, on Tuesday evening I didn’t feel like eating so just had toast. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, when I was alone, I ate the pasta that I’d cooked on Tuesday. On Friday he wasn’t hungry, as vast doses of antibiotics were making him feel ill, so we both had scrambled eggs on toast, which was enough for him. I supplemented my meal with various snacky items.

Saturday Mr FD fancied pizza, so we had the one that was in the freezer – it hit the spot, as they say, and was just right! His appetite was returning. So yesterday (Sunday) we had the planned steak, which was really nice – with a mushroom sauce, oven chips and asparagus, carrots and sugar snap peas. A big fruit salad for dessert.

So, the pork and salmon are going in the freezer. The gnocchi au jambon is turning into gnocchi with bacon bits that need using up, which we’ll have tonight. Tomorrow, I think we may have chicken (which I bought on the off chance) cooked fairly simply, and then have the baked sweet potatoes later on in the week.

Hopefully, the drugs – anti-coagulants and antibiotics – will help Mr FD feel better; he’s going to check if he can take his gout medicine with his anti coagulent. I do hope so, as that would give relief. The rheumatologist should (I hope!) be able to give advice.

On a cheerier note, the swifts are on their way – a sure sign of Spring! We saw them in Roanne, from the hospital window, and I saw a couple swooping around the square yesterday. They aren’t back in full force yet, but the first harbingers are there. Hurrah!

Cats and Birds

Browsing through old posts (one way to pass the time!) I came across two lovely pieces of music, played/ composed (in a way) by Nora the Piano Cat, and then by Birds on a Wire. I hope you enjoy them!

This second one was composed by Jarbos Agnelli from Brazil saw a photo of birds on telephone wires in a newspaper and it struck him how they looked like musical notes. He writes: “I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes. I knew it wasn’t the most original idea in the universe. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.”

He arranged his score using a xylophone, bassoon, oboe and clarinet. However, he was reluctant to take credit for the beautiful piece. “The pleasing melody is not my invention. It was the birds’ idea,” he said. “The notes are the exact position of the birds (in between the lines). The rhythm is a interpretation of their position, since there are no bar lines.”

I think they are both fun, but there’s something about the simplicity of the second piece of music that really appeals to me.

What are your thoughts?


Thank you to everyone who commented on the crosses that I showed you last post. L certainly seemed pleased with the one he received, so that’s okay. I continue to practice my Celtic knot work, and am making a card for my mum’s 94th birthday. It’s really hard to know what to buy her as a gift – she has everything she needs, doesn’t really use “smellies”, so I plumped for a delivery of different cheeses, cheese biscuits, and chutney, plus a couple of bottles of wine.

Our menus for this week are not quite so cheese based!

This is the Gary Larson cartoon, from which I got today’s title. On my shopping list now, I always write “Cat Fud”, thanks to this!

TODAY: a melange of different boxes from the freezer ! There’s a vegetable pasta sauce, a pepper sauce, and some mince. This will become a pasta bake. I also pulled out an unlabelled pot of something, which had been in the freezer for quite some time. It could be soup, or something else. We will see

*$$$ (Jim’s contribution)

WEDNESDAY: Vegetable & rice stir fry. There’s a lot of getting-past-their-best veggies in the fridge.

THURSDAY: Porc à la Greque – pork, roast tomatoes, feta, lemon juice…

FRIDAY: Pizza – this is our Friday night treat, for when I’m out all day. I may also pop into the Patisserie that is on the way home. They make fantastic cakes!

SATURDAY: Gnocchi with ham and asparagus. I found some thick ham/gammon slices (not very common) in the “Reduced” chiller cabinet recently at 5€ for four, so I snaffled them for the freezer. We’ve had two as gammon steaks, but I’ll use the others chopped up in this recipe

SUNDAY: Steak with mushroom sauce (using up the sauce from yesterday)

MONDAY: Salmon with leeks, coconut milk & sweet chilli sauce. And noodles.

TUESDAY: Stuffed sweet potatoes – a veggie mix of beans & tomatoes, served with a yoghurty/hummussy sauce.

Do any of these dishes especially appeal to you? Or completely turn you off?

Another Celtic Cross

A few weeks back I showed you a Celtic cross I had created, with some zentangle patterns & some Celtic knot work. This was destined for L, at church, but he agreed I could give it to R, who was leaving Clermont for Paris.

I was pleased with this. It had worked reasonably well, combining the two styles, as I was careful to choose “Celtic-y” zentangle patterns.

Since then, I’ve been working on more Celtic knot work, as I bought myself a book “Draw Your Own Celtic Designs”. I’ve been really enjoying it, and have been doing quite a lot of work on the patterns. Here’s one example – it’s of the most recent knot I’ve been learning

So, with my new interest, L’s cross has a few more Celtic knot work influences than the first cross. I think there are elements of one I prefer to the other, but I am pleased with both! I hope L likes it.

Unfortunately there was something a bit sticky on the paper (I don’t know if me or Jim is to blame!) so the central motif looks a bit grubby in places, but there’s not much I can do about that. I’ve tried erasing it, but it just stays on, while I erase some of the ink!

What do you think? Which cross do you prefer, & why?

Writing a good blog post.Or not.

I came across an article recently, entitled How to Write a Good Blog Post: Step by Step, All the Way From Research to Writing, Editing, and Publication

I thought it might be useful: after all, I want to keep my readers happy, and writing a good blog post would be a sensible way of going about it. Practically the first words I read were: Crafting a quality blog post can take a lot – a lot(!) – of time. Swiftly followed by from blank screen, all the way to hitting the “publish” button, it took us 16.5 hours of work.

Now, dear readers, I value you all. But not 16.5 hours of work for every post kind of value!

I read on to find out what I should be doing. I found out SO many things I’m doing wrong!!

Step 1: Start with the goal in mind

Every blog post that you publish should have a specific purpose behind it – a goal that you want to further with the use of that post.

Quite honestly, I sometimes start a post thinking “What shall I write about?!” So I’ve hardly got a goal, apart from writing! Might my goal be “to be vaguely entertaining” ? Do you think that’s acceptable, or does it have to be more detailed?

Step 2: Pick the right keyword

Each post that you publish should tackle a specific main keyword or key-phrase

Goodness me! A key word? What is that? Apparently, Ideally, that keyword is something that people search for a lot on Google, yet there’s not many other posts or sites that compete to provide answers.

I can’t imagine that my blog answers any questions people search for on Google – except maybe “Is there a slightly mad English woman living in Central France?” Answer: Yes!!

Step 3: Come up with 5 (or more) alternative headlines

At this point, you have the main idea for your blog post mostly crafted. This means that you probably have the headline roughly figured out as well.

You’re lucky if my blog post has a main idea, rather than just being aimless woffle. As for finding 5 alternative headlines (I assume that means “title” ) well, I often struggle to think of one. As some of my past titles may tell you; these include such gems as “Food again!”, “Uff, ooh, umph, ah!”, “Thursday” and “I don’t know what to write!” I couldn’t come up with another 5!

Step 4: Prepare the outline

Outlines are crazy useful … and probably your no.1 lifehack when mastering how to write a good blog post.

Prepare an outline?! Hah! I hardly have time to bash out a post. Never mind an outline! I’m sure some of you good folk whose blogs I read do indeed spend time carefully crafting your posts. Me, I just bash them out and hope for the best!

Step 5: Do your research

Putting in the groundwork and doing sufficient research before (and throughout) writing a blog post is probably the most overlooked part of the process.

Research?! I suppose I might research something as I’m typing, especially if my post is about a place, or a historical event, but I don’t do a lot of research (Here there are probably readers shaking their heads and saying “Well, that’s obvious!”)

The article says:

Well, the harsh truth is that there are very few bloggers out there who are read because people actually care about their opinions. Most people care about rather what the content that the blogger provides can do for them.

Or to put it more bluntly:  people don’t care about what you think, they care about what’s in it for them. 

Now, I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t read any other blogs for what is in it for me (except for being entertained or having my interest piqued). And I DO care about bloggers’ opinions – that’s why I’ve stopped reading some because they have slightly mad opinions about things. I do want to know what you think, even if it’s not what I think (except when, as the aforementioned blogger did, you start spouting stuff I think is actually dangerous)

Step 6: “Write → Edit → Proofread”

Although this will lengthen the process of creating a blog post considerably, it will also make the final effect soooo much better. Here’s the thing:

How to write a good blog post? Make it a three-step process:

  • Write on day one.
  • Edit on day two.
  • Proofread on day three

Hah! My process is Write. Publish. Read. Notice a spelling mistake. Unpublish. Change spelling. Republish. Continue to read. Spot a grammar error. Unpublish. Correct mistake. Republish. Continue to read. Spot another error….etc.

Or alternatively think “Sod it. They’ll know what I mean!” and leave the error.

What do you think about this then? What’s your blogging tip?

Food again!

Here’s our menu for this week:

WEDNESDAY: (I go shopping on Wednesday, so my food week always starts then) Jamie Oliver’s Pasta with green olives. However, I added onion and chorizo and used a jar of tomato/ricotta pasta sauce instead of pesto.

THURSDAY: We went out for lunch, with Céline, a work colleague of Mr FD. Just top a little restaurant not far from their work. I had a tuna & prawn pasta salad, pan fried chicken in herb butter, and then a raspberry and pistachio cream tartlet. Only 16€ per person – not bad value! So it was bread & cheese for supper.

FRIDAY: HM bacon, artichoke heart and ricotta pizza, with salad.

SATURDAY: Quick Asian fishcakes, with sweet potato wedges and “Asian slaw”

SUNDAY: Beef casserole from the freezer, mashed potatoes, asparagus and green beans.

MONDAY: Huevos Rancheros – using up the chorizo. I have a habit of using half the sausage and forgetting about the other half until it’s gone an unpleasant mottled white in the fridge. This time I’m making a conscious effort to use it in another recipe.

TUESDAY: Chicken breasts, cooked in one of the myriad sachet sauces in the cupboard. I see them in Noz, and then buy lots of them, and then forget I have them. At present, I think there is Butter Chicken, Jerk chicken and a Wagamama inspired one, plus chilli-and-hoisin-sauce. I’m not sure which one we’ll have yet.

For me, breakfast is usually 1 (or 2) slices of toast with marmalade, plus an orange juice and a bucket of coffee. Then for lunch, it’s bread and cold meat or cheese, a biscuit (or two!) and a piece of fruit. If I’ve made soup, we’ll have that too. And after dinner, I’ll have another piece of fruit and some form of chocolate. At the moment, it’s a couple of Cadbury’s Eclair toffees as I found them for sale in Carrefour. And then I try to resist having anything else. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not!