Appreciation

I used to read a blog, written by “Betty the Wod Fairy” who did beautiful paintings. It was a gentle, spiritual, slightly whimsical blog, but somehow it slipped off my radar and I forgot about it.

Today, following links from other people’s blogs, I came across her new blog, Wood Fairy

Something she wrote really resonated with me – I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting it:

We are a happy little family, all working different hours/shift patterns, so disorganised, the oven is always on at weird times as it’s someones dinner time and someone elses breakfast! The beds are never made and the house is not as tidy as I would like, there’s a mountains of ironing and cat fur everwhere! But we know the important things: eating well, sleeping well, making sure everyone knows they are loved and appreciated – preferably daily, not worrying about the things we cannot change and… counting our blessings.

While my little family eats at the same time, and keeps the same waking/sleeping hours, rather than having different meals at the same time, I loved Betty’s words for reminding me that being perfect is not really the aim of the game. Loving, laughing and nurturing – THEY are the most important things.

I really appreciated the pizza evening that my friends organised for my birthday last night. It was a great time.

Advertisements

The fun is finally over.

Judy had two wishes: to see St Roch and to do a wine tasting – so that’s what we did!

On Saturday morning we went to Cervieres, which is a local Medieval village, where we went first to the church to see the stained glass window of our feted Saint

Here is St Roch, showing off his blue knickers, and Spot, the dog, with the Jammie Dodger

After a short walk around the village we headed off to Notre Dame l’Hermitage where there’s another St Roch, which I’ve shown before.

We climbed up to the viewpoint, and looked across to our village and beyond

before heading back home for a lunch of cheese (still lots left to eat ) and salad (and still eating the lettuces from my anti-wastage box too!).

Friend Alison had recommended a Wine maker to visit – they had been with friends earlier in the summer – so on Saturday afternoon, we headed over to la Domaine Vial.

We were greeted by a very barky dog, who, having alerted his master to our presence, followedus into the Cave and then promptly fell asleep. Monsieur Vial was charming – he took time to explain all the wines that they make, to help us taste them, describing what flavours we could expect, and generally chatting away. I was very gratified to actually understand everything he said, and to be able to translate where necessary. Here is M. Vial with the 9 wines we tried – two whites, two rosé, and four red, plus a sparkling wine, which was a tad too sweet for my tastes.

We each bought some wine – Mr FD and I have been entrusted with Judy & mum’s, and have to deliver it next time we go to the UK. It was a really pleasant afternoon.

A blurry photo of the barky dog.

We drove home by a different route to usual, just to give them a different view of the area, and there was time for a snooze, before going to Louis and Odette’s for an apero. Sparkling wine and delicious snacks were followed by a meal at the Hotel de la Poste, just round the corner. Another good meal – rabbit-and-prune terrine, steak (for me. Mum had duck again!), and then the splendid cheese trolley and dessert trolley. I find that after a meal I’m too full to really appreciate either, and they really are so good one could just go to the restaurant just for them!

               

It was a very pleasant meal, made even better by the fact that we didn’t have to pay for Mr FD & my meals, due to the bartering system where Mr FD’s infomatique help and advice is paid for in food!!

On Sunday it was time for mum & Judy to leave, so we decided to go over to Lyon and visit another Medieval village, this one called Perouges. It’s about 30 minutes from the airport, so it’s quite a good place to visit if you have a bit of time to kill.

We didn’t have quite as much time to kill as we could have done, so really only had time for lunch in a very pleasant restaurant courtyard, under the spreading not-sure-but-possibly-a-lime tree.

After our meal, we took Judy and mum to the airport, and dropped them off.

It was lovely to see them both, and to spend time with them. Mind you, after a week in Italy, where I walked quite some distance, and this week, when I walked another 30-odd kilometres I’ve been glad of a somewhat more restful week this week!

The Fun Continues – visiting Villages of Character

On Thursday it is the village market, so the three of us had a wander around, just seeing what there was on offer. (Nothing special – just the usual!) and then we had a coffee back at home, before having lunch.

After lunch Judy went for a walk – getting lost and being befriended by an apparently stray dog – while mum and I stayed home, as Friend Alison was calling round. After that we went for a short walk, which was interrupted by Judy phoning to say that the dog was following her, did I have any suggestions? She decided to retrace her steps, encouraging the dog to go back to where it “picked her up” so to speak, & I guessed where she was and where the dog might belong so went to meet her. My guess was correct, and by the time I met her, she had discovered that the dog belonged to a farm, and that it was, apparently, an inveterate wanderer. The bloke at the farm said that she was very kind to have bothered to bring it back!

This isn’t the correct breed of dog, but I liked the picture!

That evening, we had some apero snacks and acouple of gin and tonics, followed by Spanish pork for dinner, but I can’t remember what we did in the evening…

However I do know that on Friday we went out exploring the local “villages of character” – having first gone to Roanne to explore Noz. I bought a nice top for 3,50€ and a lot of cat food. The last time I bought some of this, the cats wolfed it down. So when I saw it in Noz again, I bought four boxes of 12pouches each. Of course, (and I should have known this would happen!) they are now refusing to eat it! We bought a sandwich in a boulangerie, and took it to the forest of l’Espinasse to eat it.

Then we went to Le Crozet, a medieval village that I have never explored before. We went to the restaurant there with friends a few weeks back, but the village was new to me. It was a delight.

We followed the Discovery Trail around ther village, and admired the beautifully restored buildings. It really was like a film set – with very few alterations, it could have been used immediately! We could imagine the Three Musketeers would come striding round a corner, buckling their swash (or does one swash one’s buckle?!) and demanding a wench to bring them goblets of wine at any moment.

As we left to move on to Ambierle we nodded a Good Day to a Dutch couple in their car.

Ambierle has an ancient priory, with a polychrome roof, typical of the region – although most examples are found further north in Burgundy, in places like Beaune. We had a look around the church, as Judy wanted to see an image of St Roch, after I had told her the story of the Saint. There were many saints depicted in the windows, but not St Roch. However, to some surprise, we did come across the same Dutch couple as we’d met in Le Crozet; slightly embarrassed we nodded at each other, and then the three of us giggled a little at the coincidence.

We had a look around the gift shop and admired the fountain in the courtyard…

… before setting out for St Haon le Chatel, another Medieval village (this time with a tea shop)

We were sitting outside the tea shop, sipping our rather disappointing teas, and nibbling our very disappointing biscuits when Judy hissed “It’s them again!” Slightly unbelievably, it was the Dutch couple again, who were arriving for tea as well. It seemed really bizarre that they were visiting the same villages as us – especially as there are other pretty villages in the area! – but we laughed awkwardly when they arrived, and had a short conversation about the biscuits. We wazlked around the village, but we were all getting a bit tired by then…No Saint Roch in the church again though…

After this we headed home, as we were going out for a meal in the evening. We went to our favourite restaurant, and had a lovely meal. There’s really only one menu – if you have a request, you need to mention when booking (which we did, as Richard, who came with us, is vegetarian) – and so we had a goats cheese and tomato terrine with salad (a late request from Mr FD, who doesn’t eat goiats cheese, meant he had air dried ham with his salad), followed by duck (specially requested for mum)

Richard had a velouté of wild mushrooms, which he said was delicious. Cheese and then a very nice dessert (which I can’t remember, but which was fruity, I think)

 

Family time

So we get back from our lovely holiday in Italy on Sunday, round about lunchtime. We had all good intentions to do cleaning and tidying, but actually felt too tired to do anything other than flop during the afternoon. So Monday morning was a whirl of cleaning again (despite our efforts the week before we left on holiday!) and at 1.15 I was ready to leave to pick mum and Judy up at Lyon airport. But Mr FD just checked the site to see if the flight was on time – annd we discovered that there had been an “incident” at the airport. A person with mental health issues, rather than terrorist tendencies, had driven a stolen car through some plate glass windows, and then onto the runway – all flights were being delayed; many were being cancelled. Happily, theirs was only delayed, by 3.5 hours, so instead of arriving at 15h they finally got through at 18h30.

We drove them home, to a wild boar casserole that I’d prepared earlier, and a good bottle of red wine.

On Tuesday we had to go shopping, as otherwise there’d be nothing to eat, so we went to Les Halles Diderot, the market hall in Roanne, where we wandered around, admiring the fresh fruit, fish, meat and charcuterie, before stopping at Mons cheese stall:

Here we went rather b-zongo (a technical term meaning “mad and reckless”) and bought vast quantities of cheese: so much that we are still eating it almost  two weeks after it was bought! I’ve taken the last few crusty bits today and made a leek-potato-and-cheese soup for lunch. We then went to Lidl, and Carrefour, but mum was feeling tired, so she & Judy had a coffee while I did a quick zip round Carrefour for the last few things.

During the afternoon Judy and I did quite a lot of cooking. You see, I have heard tell of Boites Contre la Gaspillage (Boxes against Wastage) at Lidl – boxes full of out of date/ almost out of date food, usually fruit & veg, but not always – but had never actually been at a shop at the right time. Tuesday morning was the right time! For 1€ I bought a box containing:

  • 2 boxes of raspberries, only slightly mushy, which we made raspberry coulis with.
  • 2x500g boxes of grapes – when picked over, we got about 500g of good fruit from them.
  • 2x500g of carrots – these were mouldy, but when Judy peeled them they were fine. I cooked them up and froze them.
  • a wrinkly aubergine – I used it to make ratatouille, with
  • several large, slightly squashy tomatoes.
  • 6 Pink Lady apples – which are fine.
  • 6 Little Gem lettuces – slightly black round the tips of the leaves, but just needing a good trim
  • Half a cucumber

Not bad for 1€!! I was very impressed. That afternoon Mr FD had an interview, which actually turned out not to be an interview but an offer of some short term work. He needs to decide whether to take it on. The problem is that it might preclude him from taking on another job, should he find one…So he’s thinking about it at the moment.

Tuesday evening was Music Night! Cathy had organised another music night up at her place, so we gathered for drinks and food – I made a smoked salmon and broccoli pizza, and a salami and tomato tart to take – and singing and playing into the evening. Judy had brought her penny whistle with her, so she played some folk songs, and we sang to Beatles and Johnny Cash. A great time was had by all!

On Wednesday we went to the Pilat mountains, about an hour’s drive from us. Here we have a lovely walk that we like doing, which is called Le Gouffre d’Enfer – the Jaws of Hell. Which sounds way more difficult and scary than it is!

Mum, Judy & Mr FD ready to enter the Jaws of Hell – dum,dum, DAH!!!!!

It’s actually a gentle meander through a dry river valley, which then reaches a huge wall – which is the barrage, built in the reign of Napolean III, behind which is a large lake.

At the side is a winding flight of steps – no idea how many, but this is the view from the top of the barrage:

 

My 89 year old mum climbed these steps quicker than I did!

A view of the resevoir behind the barrage.

Then we followed the path back down to the car park, pausing to take in the view of the village of Rochetaillé

and to pose for photos

We had lunch in a pizza restaurant in the village – we usually go to the traditional Auberge, but neglected to check if it was open. Not on Wednesday. Never mind – we all enjoyed our meals, and I introduced Judy to the wonder that is a Café Gourmand – basically, coffee with mini tasters of desserts.

After this we drove up to the Cret de Perdrix, a summit with a good view. There’s about a kilometre walk up to it, and mum managed very well. The descent was a bit less easy, being very rocky, and mum being less confident of her balance, but with Mr FD’s hand and guidance she succeeded in getting down without too much difficulty. This photo shows the uneven ground underfoot

A further kilometre or so and we were back at the car…time for a drink! Mr FD also thought it was time for dessert, as he hadn’t indulged in a Café Gourmand at lunchtime. So he had a banana split. I hope he likes chantilly cream!!!

     

The rest of us had a variety of cold drinks and relaxed on the comfortable chairs in the sunshine, or the shade, depending on our preference. Finally we decided it was time to go, and we made our way home, with only a small diversion, as Mr FD took the wrong road.

We had a bottle of Asti, bought in Italy, which was very nice, and then for dinner we had  a chicken-and-vegetable tray bake. Cheese followed – we had a lot of cheese left to eat! But, TBH, we were all still quite full from lunch! Then we watched a DVD of “Brooklyn” which I very much enjoyed.

 

 

Island life… Holiday Day 2

Monday 3rd September

Today dawned bright and clear, with beautiful views from the garden of the B&B across to MonteRosa, the second highest mountain in western Europe

Breakfast was filling and delicious – freshly squeezed orange juice, bread, cheese and local salami, local yoghurt and jams, with a home made cake as well, should you want it. Coffee, and a wide selection of tea as well. We were set up for the day! We decided to explore the village of Orta San Giulio, and the lake, which weren’t far away.

We parked in the car park at the top of the hill into the village, and made our way upwards to the “sacred mount” – dedicated to St Francis, this sacred mount houses many chapels showing scenes from the saint’s life. The wikipedia page gives a few more details. It was a very pleasant shady walk around, but we didn’t visit many of the chapels, as I found the scenes, with their rather dusty, lifesize figures, slightly macabre.

 

There were beautiful views across the lake and down to the island of San Guilio as well (this island features in many, many photos that I took!!)

After about an hour’s wander, we felt it was TFAB (Time for a beer) so we made our way down the cobbled streets to the waterfront piazza in the village. On the way down, we met a great deal of visitors puffing their way upwards to the mount.

“Is it much further?” they gasped.

“About 300 metres uphill,” we replied, smugly, as our parking place had meant we’d not had such a difficult walk, as we’d been about halfway up the back of the mount before we started.

On the way down we came across this rather lovely statue of St Francis (my sister said it looked like he was morris dancing!)

We found a bar right on the waterfront, and ordered a beer. This came with crisps and a plate of snacks – tiny sandwiches, sausage, cheese etc. We debated whether to eat it, not knowing whether it was free (highly unlikely) or to be paid for, but decided we would eat it as an early part of our lunch, before going on a boat to the island. On paying the bill, we found that yes, we did have to pay for it, but that it wasn’t very expensive – and it kept us going until our late lunch.

We took a boat trip out to the island, on which is a monastery and some rather expensive looking houses…

It was relatively peaceful there, despite all the tourists chattering away as they strolled round the streets. It took about 30 minutes to complete a tour of the island, and then we got the boat back to Orta St Giulio

.

After a picnic lunch at the side of the lake we went for a drive around the lake, stopping to take photos, and to have our first gelato. I had lemon, but I can’t remember Mr FD’s flavour.

Happy Birthday, Mr FD

Same island, different angle!

After a rest back at the B&B, we went back into Orta SG for pizza night…

Charcuterie plate and mixed salad to start…

“Pizza Viagra” (yes, really!) for Mr FD

 A calzone for me. I was tempted to have “Pizza Aphrodisia” just to get tongues wagging, what with Mr FD’s pizza as well, but I didn’t!

They weren’t tiny pizzas either!

After this, Mr FD decided he needed another gelato, so we wandered back to the Piazza. He had a delicious lemon-and-basil flavour, and I had a yoghurt gelato, with peach and strawberry syrup running through it. Yummy!

I was very lucky here, as I left my purse on, the bench where we’d been sitting. As we walked back along the streets to the car, a young man chased after us with the purse…all money and credit cards intact. There are honest people in this world (who are also observant enough to notice who it was that had left the purse behind!). What a relief! That would have really put a dampener on the holiday!

And relax! (briefly!) – Holiday Day 1

Hello everyone!

I am at last taking a breath and pausing, after a fabulous week in Italy and then a week with my mum and sister staying. It has been lovely, but I haven’t really stopped, so ended up feeling really tired! Today is a day of not doing much at all, and then I need to start thinking about going bacxk to work. After a gap of 9 months it’s going to be quite difficult, although I am definitely looking forward to it!

I’ll spread out my posts about our holiday… I won’t overwhelm you with everything in one post!

So we wet off on Sunday morning, after a panic filled Saturday evening – I discvered that my European Health card was out of date, and I couldn’t get onto the site to renew it, for many and various reasons. Mr FD was quietly frustrated with me, but we finally decided that we’d take the chance that nothing terrible would happen that required medical attention – and if it did, well, the lack of card would just mean we’d have to pay up front and get reimbursed later. Happily, it was not necessary!!

We decided that we wouldn’t take the Fréjus tunnel, but rather drive over the mountains between France and Italy

This is the Col between France and Italy where we paused to eat our lunch, before descending a very winding road into Italy.

We arrived at our B&B around 17h30, having stopped off for a beer in Omegna, a village at the lakeside.

Mr FD standing on the bridge in Omegna

The B&B was very nice, but there was a problem: there was parking for 2 small cars, and 3 bedrooms**. Our car is not small, and we were “the last in”, as it were, so the spaces were already “reserved”.  The public car parking, according to the owners, is 300m away…but they neglect to say that it is 300m up a hill, AND there’s another 200 m up to the house! That first evening Mr FD drove up to the public car park, and got caught in a torrential down pour! He was not a happy bunny, and was adament that I would struggle to walk up to it every day.

So, we (I’m a tad ashamed to say) played the “cancer card” – we explained to Dario, the owner, that, in my state of recovery, I couldn’t walk up to the car park every day, so if there was no other parking available, we were very sorry but we’d have to cancel the rest of the booking, and find another place to stay. Very quickly, a solution was found, and we were able to use their parking place for the duration of the stay! I’d certainly recommend the B&B to anyone thinking of going to Lake Orta – you would ned a car, as it’s a few kilometres above the lake, but it was very pleasant, and Dario and Ciara, the owners, were very accommodating. He explained to me that they are planning on improving the parking situation this autumn.

Lavanda e Rosmarino

It wasn’t the most “typical” place, being a modern house, but it was very comfortable, and the breakfasts were fab!

Our room

We were directed to an excellent restaurant for dinner, just up the road, where we ate very well. The Taverna Antico Agnello. I had a delicious tomato soup, with garlic bread, followed by home made tagliatelli with a rabbit ragout, and then pannacotta. When we arrived it was lashing down with rain, and when we left it was dark, so we didn’t get much chance to look at the splendid building that the restaurant was in, but here is Trip Advisor’s photo:

Despite the thunderstorm and parking problem, it was an auspicious start to our holiday. I was already feeling more relaxed!

 

** ETA – that sentence is badly written, sounding as though there was car parking space for not only two small cars, but also for three bedrooms!! What it means is, of course, that despite the fact there wre three bedrooms in the B&B, there was parking provided for just two cars, and small ones at that.

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Today is my big sister’s birthday.

My brother, sister and “the baby”

I won’t say how old she is, but she’s five years older than me, and a lot fitter than I am! She morris dances with her group in Leicester, Black Annis, and also plays the penny whistle for the group. Judy’s playing in this clip.:

and apparently launching herself at someone in this photo:

She also often goes walking with her friends all over the country. I always wanted to be like my Big Sister when I was younger: when she was out, I would sneak into her bedroom and pretend to “be” her (which sounds a bit creepy, and stalkerish!) I imagine I was just an annoying younger sister to her! I even used to sneak the odd cigarette out of her drawers, and hang out of her bedroom window smoking them. That didn’t last long, however, as I was too scared of being caught!

A couple of things I remember –

I used to have a dolls’ house which I adored. I think it had been hers originally. One Christmas, Judy spent time decorating the dolls’ house for Christmas, with a tiny tree, and paper chains. She even bought a “Christmas pudding” cake from Sayers, so the dolls had a celebration lunch! Another Christmas tradition would be the writing and performing of some “pantomime” when all the relatives came for Christmas tea. Judy would write it, and we’d all (my brother, me, our second cousins – or maybe they were third cousins. I’m never quite sure of that relation! Definitely not cousins though – they were the children of my mum’s cousins) rehearse before “entertaining” everyone after tea.

It was due to Judy too that the tradition started of Mum & Dad receiving a Christmas stocking as well. One Christmasmorning we awoke to our pillowcases full of goodies, and our parents had stockings attached to their bedroom door. I think I was, by then, wise to the fact that Santa Claus does not exist, so we all joined in the following year, buying little things for their stocking.

After university, she came back to Liverpool to work for a while – I would have been maybe 17, and she and her friend Mandy took me to Stratford to see “Measure for Measure” I remember being in the back of the car, and being a little bit shocked at the way the two of them sized up the men in the cars that overtook!! But I enjoyed being treated as the same as them – I was no longer the “little sister”, but a young woman!

And for my 16th birthday I was allowed to have a party – with real boys! Judy and her then boyfriend, Andy, were left in charge (she’d have been 21) and my parents went out for the evening. That also made me feel very “grown up”!

I still do look up to her – she seems to have her life all sorted out, whereas I feel I kind of just drift along, rather aimlessly! She is intelligent, politically aware, kind and generous.

Happy birthday, Judy!