Eating, drinking and celebrating.

So as I mentioned a few posts back, I went over to the UK to celebrate mum’s 90th birthday. I had a great time.

Of course, I got over anxious about the journey, but it went very smoothly: Friend Cathy took me to Roanne station, for the 10.15 train to Lyon. I then took the express tram to the airport, arriving just after 12.00. My flight was at 17.25!!! Well, I knew I had plenty of time! No need to panic. So, I treated myself to a meal in a restaurant – tapenade and breadsticks, followed by a very nice gratin de raviolis. Washed down by a very nice glass of beer, I was perfectly happy. I spent another hour drawing a zentangle, with a quotation about travelling on it, which I then left for someone to find, and then I went through security. I sat in the departure lounge and drew another zentangle and then strolled in a leisurely manner to the gate. As I didn’t know what time the trains from Manchester airport to Liverpool were, I didn’t panic or have to run. I just made my way to the station, and found there was one leaving in 10 minutes – perfect timing…but I’d’ve been panicking about whether I’d catch it or not if I’d known what time it was! At Liverpool, I picked up a taxi, and got to mum’s at just after 9.00 pm. A long day, but one that actually was less worry-filled than I’d expected.

The following day we did some food shopping, went for a walk, read and chatted. Mum was itching to garden, but the weather wasn’t great.

A view of (part of) mum’s garden

In fact, we got a little damp on our walk, but it didn’t really matter.

I think there’s some water birds on the picture somewhere! These are the flood plains near mum, which are used to regulate water levels. We disturbed a lapwing who did the distraction technique that I’d heard about but never seen. Crying piteously it flew in one direction, low to the ground, trying to lure us away from its baby (which we’d already clocked running around in the long grass) So it didn’t need to panic any more, we walked back along the path, in the direction we’d come from, upon which it stopped calling and flew back to its nest. Fascinating.

In the evening, we went to some of Mum’s friends, who had laid on a birthday meal for her, together with a cake.

Surprise, surprise!

On Friday I went into Liverpool to do a bit of shopping, and to meet up with an old school friend. We had a meal in the Pen Factory bar & brasserie,

and then went to The Everyman theatre, to see Sondheim’s “Sweeny Todd”. while it wouldn’t have been my first choice of Sondheim musical, it was a great performance, which I really enjoyed. Very minimal set, but very effective. It was good to catch up with Tracy too, and to hear her news.

On Saturday, we went out to lunch with mum – this was the “proper” celebration. There was me, my sister & her husband, my brother, one of my nephews, and one of my nieces, with her husband and baby Bill. And mum, of course. We went to Moor Hall, “The Barn” – Moor Hall is a michelin starred restaurant, but The Barn is on the same site, but a less formal experience. Mum felt more comfortable with that – and it was delicious!! I meant to take photos but forgot! I had a duck terrine, with an apple compote, followed by chicken, with a leek and potato layer and wild mushrooms, then a fantastic dessert: a light choux bun, filled with rhubarb and custard, with a blood orange ice cream. Lush!!

This is The Barn

and this is the posh restaurant part

My niece, Rose, her husband, Dave, and Bill the baby

Bill enjoyed his chicken goujons with garlic-and-pesto mayonnaise

When we got home after lunch, we had coffee and cake (my photos were very blurry and not very good.) and then we all felt the need for “a little zizz”!! Afterwards, we sat around the table with a few glasses of wine and reminisced and talked. It was all very sociable.

On Sunday it was mum’s actual birthday: Rose left Bill at home with Dave, and came over from Manchester. We all went to church – possibly the worst sermon ever. I think God or Jesus was mentioned about twice, whereas Cilla Black got several mentions!! Never mind. There was coffee and cake (more cake!) after the service, and everyone wished mum happy birthday.

Here are just some of her cards, arranged around the fireplace.

We went out for a late lunch to the Scarisbrick Arms

where we had another delicious meal…I had a steak with chips, and onion rings and other delicious trimmings! I’d ordered the sirloin, which had a £2.50 extra charge (it was a set price menu) but the waiter came and said that they didn’t have any sirloin left. So I said I’d have to have the rump, which was the same price – “unless”, I said,”I could have the fillet steak (which was £¨4 extra) at the same price as the sirloin – to make up for my disappointment…” Yes, that’s fine, the waiter said!!! And it was lovely.

We got back, and another zizz was in order! The evening was spent reading, and trying to work out how the TV works! Mum has two, one which she uses most frequently, in her kitchen/sitting room, and a larger one in the main sitting room. This one is more complicated and she always forgets which remote to use and how they work. None of us are very technically minded, so it was a bit of a shambles – but we finally managed it!

On Monday Mum and Judy went to buy Judy’s gift for her – a bird table – before Judy set off for home. Mike, mum and I went over to see Rose in Manchester, and had lunch there. Then we went out to a park in the afternoon – Bill enjoyed playing on the play equipment

and seeing the animals, but then got a bit grizzly as he hadn’t had a nap

.

Mike & mum, in the sunshine

A Manchester Bee

So we left a little earlier than planned. Mike cooked us an enjoyable meal of pasta and salmon and asparagus, after which we just relaxed (again!) and watched a bit of TV.

On Tuesday, it was time for the journey home. Mike took me to the airport on his way back home to Yorkshire – I was only 4 hours early for the flight this time!! I did start to worry on the plane about having time to get through the airport to catch the last possible express tram to make sure I caught my train home. I was thinking “Will it take me an hour and a half to get through security? Will I have enough time?” (Yes, honestly, I thought it might take that long to get processed through immigration. Sigh) As it was, it took me all of 15 minutes to disembark, go through seciurity AND get to the tram station! I had plenty of time – in fact, enough time to have a coffee at the train station before catching my train home – where Mr FD was waiting for me.

A lovely trip home, to celebrate a very special Mum.

 

 

 

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Procrastination continued…

Thank you for your concern, but actually, it wasn’t the blog post that was the thing I didn’t want to do – it was more like the blog post was the way of procrastinating, but I couldn’t think what to write, so I didn’t even do that!

Yesterday I had to phone my health care providers, in French, as I couldn’t get on to “My Account”. I’d been putting it off for a few weeks, not so much because I was worried about speaking French (I just kind of launch into that and hope for the best) but rather I was afraid I wouldn’t understand the instructions given to me! However, all was well, and I understood. I’d just been entering the wrong number into the “Identification” box.

So I was quite pleased with myself by the end of the day.

This morning I did some batch cooking. With Mr FD now working (well, training to work) I can’t expect him to spend a long time cooking when he gets home. Before, I had no problem asking him to prepare something that maybe took 30 – 45 minutes (to prepare & cook) but now it seems a bit unfair. So today I made two batches of lamb,butternut squash and spinach curry, and three batches of a basic beef-mince-and-tomato mix to go in the freezer. These can be used to make quicker meals. My meal planning will take into account the need for quicker to prepare meals.

I also made some spiced carrot soup, as we both like taking soup for lunch, and prepared a dish of potato/sweet potato gratin for tonight. I felt very virtuous by the end! I impulse bought a Christmas ham from IKEA, which I roasted with a marmalade/honey/orange glaze on Wednesday

We had this with mushroom linguine last night, we’ll have it tonight with the gratin & some mange touts from the freezer, and then with chicory and a cheese sauce on Monday. The rest can go in the freezer or be used for sandwiches.

The problem is that the freezer is quite full of food already, so I’ll have to take something out to make room for the new stuff!! There’s quite a lot of fruit in there so I think I might take it out and make a peach,raspberry & redcurrant cobbler for dessert. I made an apple crumble last weekend as well! Mr FD won’t be able to believe his luck – I hardly ever make desserts!!

And…

HUZZAH!

My mammogram and ultrasound were clear!

Christmas Eve

(I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, but I’ll probably schedule it to publish on Boxing Day)

Well, this morning Breakfast TV was discussing people who haven’t finished their Christmas shopping, or at least, their food shopping; reporters were standing in supermarkets – which, I feel, were disappointingly empty for their reports. “There are people queueing for the vegetables”, the reporter announced as the camera panned across the fresh produce aisles where a few people were picking up bags of parsnips. We are all organised – although we did pop down to Carrefour for extra-soft “Balsam” tissues, as I have a stinking cold, and we may have bought a bottle of fizzies to drink tomorrow (as I’d only bought really cheap stuff from Noz!)

Mr FD is on his computer, I’m on mine, the cats are sleeping somewhere around the place, and the house is quiet.

Pomme, sleeping on the amplifier under my desk – a warm “underheated” space!

 

There are only the two of us on Christmas Day – we’ll have a quiet day of good food, a walk, some reading, some Christmas radio, some music and some TV. I think “The Princess Bride” is planned for tonight (Inconceivable!) If you don’t know this film, I’d heartily recommend you seeking it out without further ado. It is a perfect family film.

It’s strange but I always feel one should eat fairly simply, and preferably vegetarianly, on Christmas Eve – I wonder if this is something left over from my childhood? So last year’s discovery of the French Graisse de Noel soup fits perfectly with this. Here’s a link to the recipe (in French) So we’re having that for our “tea” tonight, with maybe a smidgeon of pannetone!

For lunch I have fancied up an old recipe which I found in my ancient recipe book. It was a very simple receipe from a Waitrose recipe card. Here’s my “enhanced” version:

  • Jar of marinaded peppers
  • tin of tomatoes
  • green olives (a couple of spoonfuls)
  • parsley
  • aubergine
  • mushroom
  • mozzarella

Whizz the peppers, parsley, olives and tomatoes together with a blender. Season to taste.

Thickly slice the aubergine (For two of us I sliced one aubergine into 8 slices.) Brush with olive oil and bake until softish.

Pour the pepper/tomato sauce into an ovenproof dish. I topped with grated parmesan because I had some to use up.

Slice the mozzarella into 4 thick slices. Slice the mushroom crossways to make big rounds.

Put a slice of aubergine onto the sauce, then a slice of mozzarella, then a slice of mushroom, then the other slice of aubergine. Repeat until you have two stacks per person.

Add a little grated cheese. I also added some truffle flavoured olive oil because why not?

Bake for about 30 minutes at about 180°

Ready for the oven – if you enlarge the photo, you might be able to read the original recipe.

We’re going to have this with some corn bread from the bakers’.

This afternoon, I’m thinking I may crank my heater up a bit, and curl up in my Slanket with some choccies and a book. It’s a grey and drizzly day outside, so I think that may be the cheeriest thing to do!

A walk around Strasbourg

One of the things we did while we were in Strasbourg was to take a free walking tour – we’ve done this in Budapest and in Turin, as well as here in Strasbourg, and always found them to be really interesting. I’d recommend looking one up if you’re visiting another city. Of course, one gives a tip at the end, but you give what you think the tour has been worth.

One thing that I found very moving was when our guide, Leo, talked about the way Strasbourg and the surrounding area had passed from French to German hands and back again, a&nd back again…how a member of his family who was still alive had “changed nationality” five times in his lifetime! Leo took us to a war memorial: Here’s my picture of it, taken on a rainy day in December.

Here’s another photo:

Leo explained that the sculpture shows the mother “Alsace” mourning for her dead sons…but, uniquely for war memorials, these young men are naked, they wear no uniforms, nothing to identify them. The words on the memorial read “A nos morts” (To our dead)…almost uniquely, nothing about “dead for the Republic”, or “died for the glory of France”.

And why? Because there had been people from Strasbourgian families who had been fighting on both sides – for the Allied forces, but also for the German, simply because of where they lived, and who had been “in charge” at the time. So the memorial simply commemorates all who died. I found this very moving.

The rest of the tour was informative and interesting too..with a very engaging guide.

We were lucky enough to also have a rapid tour with an acquaintance, Denis, who we’d met for Vin Chaud. He told us about a space between two pillars, outside the Cathedral…Apparently, people had to go through this space at the end of Lent. If they couldn’t fit through, it showed that they hadn’t been very good at their Lenten fasting and were therefore fined!!

Here’s Jane proving that her Lenten fasting had gone well

despite us having eaten one of these, which is a cross between a pretzel and a doughnut (a doughzel? a pretnut?)

and one of these, which is a cross between a Danish pastry and a pretzel (a Danzel? a Pretzish?)

Both were delicious, but I preferred the doughzel – it was much lighter than it looked. We had shared one, but would have liked one each! Unfortunately, we’d taken it back to the flat to eat, so it was too far to go back to buy another one!

 

 

Food highlights…

Actually, there haven’t been any particular highlights this week – the Chinese pork was OK, but nothing special.

I think the Feta stuffed chicken was the nicest (this is the correct recipe – I linked to the wrong one in an earlier post) but next time I’ll make the pepper sauce in a different way. It was too watery made like the recipe suggests. Tinned tomatoes, marinaded peppers and some harissa would be better than using stock, I think.

I was lucky enough to get another 1€ Lidl box – this one had about 10 packs of mange touts. A lot were too brown-spotted, but we got the equivalent of about 5 packets of good ones. That’s 1.25kg, which were blanched and frozen. There were also 1.5kg of mushrooms, all perfectly fine, which were sliced and frozen (some cooked, some raw), and 4 wrinkly parsnips. There was also a completely rotten celeriac and an unusable lettuce, but still it was worth the 1€ and a bit of extra work. Parsnips will probably go in soup at the weekend.

I’m looking forward to trying this recipe tomorrow: Stove top pulled pork, with coleslaw, and sweet potato wedges. My slow cooker died a death last winter, so I don’t have the convenience of that – we will get another, but just not yet. This recipe seems to give the delight that is pulled pork, without the slow cooker experience. We shall see.

Food – and other stuff – in the past week…

It’s been a bit up-and-downy during the past week, food wise. I’ve tried to be sensible and eat well, then every now and then I crack… Luckily, not having biscuits in the house means that the “cracking” is relatively controlled! Though it was hard to contain my delight when I found an “emergency scone” in the freezer! Although technically it was mine, (I’d put 6 in there a while back; Mr FD had his three, but I’d forgotten that I’d only eaten two!) I shared it with Mr FD. Because I’m nice like that!

Highlights this week included last night’s salmon recipe which was delicious! Baked salmon with tomatoes and butternut squashWe didn’t have it with baby salad leaves, but with some sautéed endives, but it was a really good dish. Although it’s a SW recipe, I’d recommend it to anyone who likes salmon!

On Wednesday we had a “do” with the car – the Fiat has been giving us a few problems, but we thought that the garage had fixed the cause.

I was in Roanne shopping, when, outside Lidl, I tried to start it, and there was nothing. All the lights came on, but it wouldn’t start. I phoned Mr FD, who, luckily, wasn’t far away, with our friend Louis – they’d been about to start picking apples at Louis’ family home some 20/30 km from Roanne. So Louis and Mr FD tried to push start the car down a slope – unfortunately I was in the driving seat, and never having push started a car before, I did the wrong things, and it didn’t start. Mr FD contained his annoyance. Louis drove us back home where we picked up the Pug-bus (Peugeot estate) and drove back to Roanne. With Mr FD in the Fiat 500 I towed it back to the Lidl car park (at the top of a slope), then we untied the tow rope and, with a tiny heave from me, Mr FD drove the Fiat down the slope – it started first time!! Huzzah! He drove off around the corner.

As I’d not finished the shopping, we’d planned that I’d go to Carrefour in the Pug-bus to get what I still had to buy. I dithered…I couldn’t face a big hyper-market, so I thought I’d go to the smaller Carrefour Market instead. I had a choice of two ways to go, but for some reason decided to take the least logical – and who should I come across but Mr FD stalled at the traffic lights, right in the middle of rush hour, and blocking the route for everyone else who were just managing to squeeze past by mounting the traffic island…He couldn’t contact me, as he’d left his mobile phone at home (I’ll tell you this for free: had it been the other way round, with me not having my phone, he’d have been right pissed off with me! I didn’t mention it once. Except just now.)

So we re-attached the tow rope, I pulled him round the corner & somehow he started the car again. After that, I wasn’t sure I trusted the Fiat not to stall again, so I abandoned the shopping and followed Mr FD home…

Earlier in the day I’d met up with someone from the Port – she and her husband live on a narrow boat, Out of the Blue, and travel the waterways of France during the summer and over-winter in Roanne – and we’d had a coffee together. It was the first time I’d met Yvonne, and I think we got on quite well. I’m sure we’ll meet up again at some time. I decided to stay and have lunch in the restaurant, so had a cheese omellette, salad and a big plate of chips. So I felt a bit sick from over eating and stress of cars breaking down. Thus when I got home I didn’t want to eat. I defrosted and heated up a curry and naan bread from the freezer for Mr FD, but I just had a couple of crispbreads later on in the evening. There was lots of curry left over so we had it again on Thursday evening, with added chicken & mushrooms, and with rice. It wasn’t very hot – I’m really not very good at judging the right spices to give enough heat to curries! – but it was flavoursome.

I’ve carefully planned next week’s food – however, as always, something will probably happen to change it all…Including not being able to get ingredients or something. I’m shopping (again!) after work on Monday afternoon. That is when I usually shop, but what with forecast snow last Monday, and not many lessons on Wednesday I had changed the day.

Today (writing this on Saturday, scheduling it for Tuesday) we’re having HM pizza for dinner, and tomorrow I’m pulling the wild boar casserole out of the freezer, to have with mash, carrots and green beans. Mr FD is going to be in charge of cooking on Tuesday (Feta stuffed chicken)and on Wednesday (Chinese Pork) and on Thursday (Roast vegetables with feta and pâsta). From next week he’ll be cooking on Friday too, as I’m restarting with my 5 year old student, from 18h- 19h. That’s going to be mostly crafting and colouring while speaking English, but it’s still work.

Of course, it may all be different if – as we hope – Mr FD’s interview goes well. He has an interview on Tuesday afternoon, which sounds like a job right up his street. We keep our fingers crossed.

We hope…

Eating well?

Hmm, maybe not!

I left you with what we’d eaten up until Saturday 6th October. Our next week went like this:

SUNDAY: Breakfast: Yoghurt & fruit

Lunch: Smoked salmon paté, soup, 1 slice toast. The soup was fridge bottom soup – using up lots of wrinkly vegetables from the fridge.

Dinner: Spanish pork, jacket potato, vegetables. The Spanish pork was something from the freezer; it wasn’t very SW friendly, and contained rice, but Mr FD still cooked a jacket potato too! I can’t remember what vegetable we had. I probably had an apple .

MONDAY: Breakfast: Yoghurt & fruit

Lunch: Soup, smoked salmon pate.

Dinner: Bean burgers, sweet potato wedges and salad. Fruit.

I cook my eggs in the microwave, so the yolk isn’t as runny as these, unfortunately. It’s a lot more convenient though!

TUESDAY: Breakfast: poached egg on toast

Lunch (packed lunch): Soup, 2 ryvitas, 0% cream cheese, cucumber, tomato, apple.

Dinner: Steak-and-vegetable stir fry (one steak between us, 75g rice noodles between us, lots of vegetables and a hoisin sauce sachet.)

We did have some microwave popcorn between us duiring the evening.

WEDNESDAY: Porridge with 0.5 tbsp golden syrup

Packed lunch: Ham/salad sandwich, tomatoes, apple, “emergency scone” ( a scone that was in the freezer…for an emergency!)

Dinner: Chilli with rice, half a roll as garlic bread.

THURSDAY: Breakfast: “Bacon” sandwich (1 slice of bread)

Lunch: Ham and salad, half a roll. Apple. Special K bar.

Dinner: Chicken thigh, ratatouille, jacket potato.

FRIDAY: Breakfast: 0% fromage frais

Lunch: Chicken drumstick, half a slice of ham, salad, slice of bread. Special K bar.

Dinner: Pasta with spinach, lardons (100g between us), mushrooms & a carton of 4% fat “creme fraiche”. Popcorn during the evening.

SATURDAY: Breakfast: “Bacon” sandwich

Lunch: Full disclosure: It was the Cyclo Telethon meal, so I was helping prepare the meal, and then we ate it. Lentils to start, then a thick slice of roast pork and gratin dauphinoise, a wedge of camembert and a slice of apple tart. Plus kir. Lots of kir!!

Dinner: Soup (butternut squash, sweet potato, coconut milk and leftover lentils from lunch!) and a prawn sandwich.

SUNDAY: Breakfast: 0% fromage frais

Lunch: Soup, prawn sandwich, apple.

Piece of praline brioche at a friend’s house (well, it would be rude not to!!)

Dinner: Pork tenderloin, roast potatoes, roast squash, with leek, mushroom, apple & cider sauce.

MONDAY: Breakfast: Egg on toast

Packed lunch: Soup, ham sandwich, wedge of camembert, tomatoes, banana.

Dinner: Pork tenderloin, roast potatoes, roast squash, with leek, mushroom, apple & cider sauce. (Leftovers from Sunday!)

Planned for…

TUESDAY: Breakfast: porridge & syrup

Lunch : Soup, egg sandwich, apple.

Dinner: Salmon & broccoli bake Similar to this, but without the asparagus. Maybe mushrooms instead.

Then on Wednesday, I’m off to Waterloo for Convention, and won’t be thinking about what I’m eating!! I plan to enjoy it, and not worry. There’s always the Bishop’s Dinner on Friday which is a posh do, and another meal out on Saturday, and it’s no use trying to eat SW-friendly. Especially when there’s usually fizzies at the Bishop’s Dinner – not missing that!!

Mr FD is doing the shopping tomorrow, so he can buy what he wants to eat while I’m away, and I’ll shop again next Monday.