Sunday, 26 February 2017

Mosaic Monday # 29 - did you ever have one of those days?

Did you ever have one of those days when anything that could go wrong did go wrong?
Last Thursday was such a day for the SP and me here at the Presbytère.
The TV weather forecast mentioned that Storm Doris was already battering the United Kingdom. Normandy is just a skip and a jump across the English Channel from the south coast of England so we weren't surprised that it was cold and very blustery outside.
We needed to run some errands so headed to Bayeux to shop followed by lunch at a Brasserie on the Market square.
We arrived home to find this.

We walked inside the house and it was cold.
The central heating wasn't working.

The damson tree, on the left, 10 years ago.

The plumber who had installed a new pressure control whatchamacallit to the boiler the previous day was called back.
Whilst we waited for him I checked emails only to find my Facebook profile had been hacked and my friends were receiving friend requests from some unknown hacker.
After answering emails I posted a message on FB to let everyone know not to accept any friend requests from me.
The SP lit the wood burning stoves in rooms at opposite ends of the house, between them they did a good job of keeping us warm.
Late afternoon the plumber arrived to take a look at the problem.
The boiler's pump promptly blew a gasket and sprayed very hot water all over the plumber, the SP and everything else in the laundry/store room within spraying distance, including the fuse box and internet router.
The plumber went off promising to order a replacement pump and to come back the next day.
Meanwhile. we mopped and mopped.
Then the electricity went off throughout the house, garage and store rooms but was restored after fuse boxes were checked and appliances unplugged and plugged in again.
Next we lost the internet.
At least we had hot water and log fires.
By this time we were both reeling so, after a light supper, we went to bed.
Still no internet.
Friday dawned with brilliant sunshine and blue skies.
We had the internet and hot water still, what a great start to the day.
A friend had reported the hack of my FB page to Facebook, they investigated and closed the fake page down.
I changed my FB password.
The chainsaw came out and the poor old damson tree was dispatched painlessly.
Logs were cut and stacked.

The plumber arrived in the afternoon and fitted the new pump, heating was restored.
Happy Days.
Here's a house we passed on our walk on Friday,
 another fixer-upper for you to consider.

A fairly dilapidated three room cottage, needs a lot of work to make it habitable.
Last known occupants - a family of ducks.
Comes with extensive outbuildings, big garden with large pond.
Best feature - this amazing mimosa tree positively flourishing in the courtyard in front of the house.
It's perfume, although delicate, was wonderful.

Acacia Dealbata - a native of Australia
was introduced into France in the 19th century
by wealthy English residents on the Côte d’Azur.
The Magical Mimosa Festivals of the South of France.
Click on the link above to immerse yourself in the
festivals and carnivals of the Côte d’Azur.

A different type of Mimosa altogether is a delicious cocktail to be enjoyed at anytime but which goes especially well with brunch.
Equal parts orange juice and champagne the Mimosa cocktail is said to have been invented in 1925 by one Frank Meier a bartender at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
But did you know that a cocktail called Buck's Fizz was created four years earlier by bartender McGarry at Buck's Club a London gentleman's club still in existence today?

A Buck's Fizz also pairs orange juice and champagne together, combining two parts fizz to one part juice, some variations exchange sparkling wine for the champagne and can include gin or cherry brandy.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Mosaic Monday # 28. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.

Today I'd like to take you on a brief tour of Edinburgh Castle.

King Malcolm III brought his second wife Queen Margaret,
kinswoman of King Edward the Confessor of England,
to live there in 1074.
(Detail from a frieze in the entrance hall of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, photographed by uploader, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia)
Here's what I found about Malcolm from wikipedia.
He was the eldest son of Duncan I who became King of Scotland in 1034.
Duncan's reign was cut short when he was murdered by Macbeth in 1040.
Macbeth ruled for 17 years until he was killed in 1057 by Malcolm.
Macbeth's stepson Lulach was crowned King and was murdered by Malcolm in 1058.
Malcolm was crowned King in 1058 and ruled until his death in 1093
when he was succeeded by his eldest son, by his first wife, Duncan II.

I found a good overview of William Shakespeare's play

Saint Margaret's Chapel, 12th Century.
The oldest building in the Castle built by King David (1124-53)
and dedicated to his Mother who died here in 1093.
She was created a Saint in 1251.
There are many wonderful things to see within the Castle grounds, click here for more info.

From the Edinburgh Castle website:
The Crown Jewels.
The crown jewels of Scotland are a breathtaking sight.
Known as The Honours of Scotland they are displayed in the Crown Room and are surrounded by a special exhibition.
The sceptre was presented to James IV by Pope Alexander VI in 1494 while the crown was first worn for the coronation of James V’s wife Mary of Guise in 1540.
They were first used together for the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543.
Their past has been turbulent. They were removed and hidden from 1651-60 to keep them from Cromwell’s Parliamentarian army.
In 1707 they were locked in a chest and sealed away after the Treaty of Union between England and Scotland.
In 1818 they were rediscovered by the novelist Sir Walter Scott, and with them a mysterious silver wand.
Sadly we didn't have enough time to see the Crown Jewels when we visited in September 2014 but we did enjoy the Regimental Museum of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. 

Cornet James Irving of the 1st Bengal Light Cavalry

Officer of The Black Watch Regiment

"The Thin Red Line"
Robert Gibb
depicts the 93rd Highlanders at the Battle of Balaclava, 1854.

At 1pm every day (except Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday) the One o'clock gun is fired and is a great draw for visitors to the Castle.
Dating back to 1861 it's original purpose was to allow ships sailing in the Firth of Forth
(just visible in the background of my photo) 
to set the Maritime clocks by which they navigated the worlds oceans.

More from the Edinburgh Castle website:
Standing on its great rock, Edinburgh castle dominates Scotland’s capital.
Great events have taken place within its wall and it has witnessed many sieges.
To control the castle was to hold the keys to the kingdom.
Iron Age warriors understood the rock’s military potential and built a hill fort here. Our oldest poetry tells of a war band which feasted here for a year before riding to death in battle.
During the Wars of Independence the castle changed hands many times. In 1314 it was retaken from the English in a daring night raid by Thomas Randolph, nephew of Robert the Bruce.
The castle was home to kings and queens. Queen Margaret (later St Margaret) died here in 1093, and Mary Queen of Scots, gave birth to James VI in the royal palace in 1566.
Her great-great-great grandson Charles Edward Stuart - Bonnie Prince Charlie - captured Edinburgh but couldn’t take the castle during the 1745-6 Jacobite rising.
In 1996, the Stone of Destiny, on which kings were enthroned for centuries, was returned to Scotland and is displayed in the Crown Room.
From the 1600s onwards the castle was a military base with a large garrison.
Later it also held prisoners of war.
Parts are still a military base, but the castle is now a world-famous visitor attraction and a key element of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site.  
When you stand on the battlements you are treated to a fantastic view
over the city across to the Firth of Forth in the distance.

There are visual aids here and there along the battlements
 indicating various parts of the city.

We're keen to go back and experience some more
of what the city has to offer, one day.
 Perhaps arranging our next visit to coincide
with the Edinburgh Film Festival or Edinburgh Fringe.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Five on Friday - feeling Pink.

Recently I've been getting FB requests to post a heart on my FB page
to support Breast Cancer awareness which I thought was strange
since October is Breast Cancer awareness month.

Still it doesn't hurt to spread the word about being vigilant about checking the ladies
so here's a reminder from me.

Eating cake always puts me in the pink so here are two for us to share.

Something else to put smiles on our faces.

 They may be expensive but well worth it for the cheeriness factor.
Joining two lovely hosts this week with my 5 pretty pinks
Amy @ Love Made My Home for Five on Friday
for Pink Saturday.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Mosaic Monday # 27 - so then this happened.

I have a friend who lives in the UK who likes to make marmalade in January, usually she makes a Seville orange marmalade because Seville oranges are at their best at this time of year.
Last month however she went "off piste" and pink grapefruit and gin marmalade was the result.
After seeing pix on Facebook I decided to make some myself, well February is Grapefruit month after all.
I asked google to find me a quick and easy recipe and discovered one on the aptly named "gintime -  the site for gin lovers everywhere".

Pink Gin Marmalade
  • 1 kg pink grapefruit
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 litres water
  • 1.5 kg white sugar
  • 100 ml Gin
This will fill about 4 1lb jars, but it is good to have a couple of spare ones just in case or a selection of big and small jars.
First of all give the rinds a really good scrub in some hot water to removes the wax. Cut the grapefruits and lemon in half and juice them. Remove all the loose bits inside but leave the white pith on the peel. Chop the grapefruit into strips. Place the peel and juices into a big pan and pour over the water. Put the pips of the fruit into a piece of muslin and secure with a string and place this in the pan (the pips contain pectin which helps the marmalade set). Bring the contents of the pan to the boil and then simmer gently for about two and a half hours. By this time the fruit should be soft and transparent and the liquid will have reduced by a third.
Take off the heat and add the sugar. Stir and allow to sit for a moment to dissolve. While you are doing this, set your oven to 150C or gas 2. Wash the jars in hot soapy water then rinse but do not dry. Place the jars upside down in the oven and leave them for 30 mins, then switch the oven off and use them while they are still hot. When you take them out of the oven make sure they are not placed on metal – use a wooden chopping board.
Give the fruit a good stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved, bring to the boil and then allow to simmer. You now need to watch out for the setting point. It is difficult to put an exact time on this as it depends on the size and shape of your pan and how much you are making. If you have a sugar thermometer use this and look out for it reaching 106C. Otherwise test for the setting point every few minutes by placing a drop of the liquid on a chilled saucer, place the saucer in the fridge for a moment and then push your finger through it. If it crinkles then it is at setting point. Once this is reached take the pan off the heat immediately. Allow the marmalade to sit for 20 minutes before stirring in the gin and pouring it into the jars. Seal the jars immediately and carefully (because they will be very hot) turn them upside down to create a vacuum in the jar. Allow to cool, then store in a cool, dark place.

Prepping 3 large grapefruits took longer than I thought it would but I got a lot of juice out of them and when I got the hang of it the messy stuff from inside came away fairly easily.
I added the water and the muslin bag with a very few pips in.
so then this happened..............
I tipped the sugar into the juice and put the pan on the gas stove.
Help! I'd missed out one very important step.
Bring the contents of the pan to the boil and then simmer gently for about two and a half hours. By this time the fruit should be soft and transparent and the liquid will have reduced by a third. Take off the heat and add the sugar. Stir and allow to sit for a moment to dissolve.
Well, I cooked that sugary fruity peel for 5 hours and all I got was a thick syrup with peel in it!
I left it (and me) to cool overnight and woke up the next morning determined not to give up.

Pinterest provided the inspiration needed to save the day.
After straining the strips of grapefruit peel from the syrup, I baked some in a cake to have with tea that afternoon and froze the rest to add to more cakes and desserts in the future.
The syrup was poured into freezer containers and was magically transformed into the most delicious, palest pink grapefruit and gin sorbet, voila!

oh, yes you can!

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Five On Friday # 10.

Joining Amy once again for Five On Friday
2 things that have something in common;
2 things that are loosely connected
and 1 sign of an early spring, perhaps!

The first Sunday in February, as those of you who live in the UK may already know,
was Yorkshire Pudding Day.
To celebrate this year I not only tried a new recipe (bye bye Delia) from Barney Desmazery but as a change served them with a beef in ale casserole.

Staying with the National Food Day theme 
did you know that the 7th February was Fettucine Alfredo Day?

To learn more about this delicious dish click here to go to the National Day Calendar. We love pasta and I'm always trying out new recipes
sourced nowadays from Pinterest.
There are so many versions of this dish on there,
 the one I chose was the copycat Olive Garden Alfredo sauce, yummy.
Enough about food - my stomach's rumbling, onto the next loosely connected duo.
M'selle Fleur's fear of loud noises (fireworks, thunder, hunters shooting) has escalated to the point now that on certain days she won't even get out of the car.
Luckily she has no concerns at the beach and will happily walk and play for miles, it truly is her and therefore our happy place.
On Monday morning we headed that way and look what we saw there.

Of course it's not always convenient to use up the whole morning going to the beach and so I did some googling to find a way of calming Fleur so that we can enjoy all our walks together.
I knew about Bach's Homeopathic Flower remedies for relieving stress
and was very happy to find that they make a Rescue Remedy for Pets.

Amazon was consulted, the remedy was purchased and treatment has begun.
I'll keep you posted as to whether it works or not.
and finally......

that's right the lawn mower came out of hibernation on Tuesday
this is the first cut of the year.
Is Spring really on the way?

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Mosaic Monday # 26. The Good, the Random, the Fun.

One of the great things about Mosaic Monday is the inspiration that I get from visiting the blogs of all of you who participate each week.

Reading about where you live, your families; homes; hobbies and passions seems to spark my own creativity leading me to think "outside the box" to find new interests and expand the range of blog topics.
Despite my best efforts I still haven't mastered the ability to capture images of the birds who come into the garden to avail themselves of the daily buffet laid out for them on the bird table, so I can't blog about that.
With the weather so cold and bleak this past week we haven't ventured out too far from the fireside, so I was asking myself what can I bring to Mosaic Monday this week when I remembered Linda's post "Late January Random-osity; the Good, the Random the Fun" @ The View From Squirrel Creek.

the  good
early primroses and snowdrops growing at the side of the lane

the random
a once stately country house, now sadly neglected,
could be brought back to it's former glory.
Is this the fixer-upper of your dreams?

the fun!
are you a fan of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple?
then check out the Angela Marchmont series
I'm afraid to say I'm hooked on them, such fun.

Have you been inspired by other bloggers and discovered a new interest, author or hobby?
Don't keep it to yourself, leave me a comment and tell me more!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Five On Friday # 9. 5 things that made me happy this week.

Joining Amy @ Love Made My Home for Five On Friday 
with 5 things that have made me happy this week.

walking by a derelict barn we saw that some enterprising person was using it
as a stable for their horses,
this guy popped his head out to say bonjour
from now on I'm calling him Mr Ed.

more and more food shops in Normandy are using these biodegradable bags
I was very happy to see my local boulanger
has started using them too this week.

 # 3
what can I say?
our Orlando theme park tickets have arrived!
Did you see my happy dance?
 # 4
M'selle Fleur chased a neighbour's cat in the lane
I was happy to see he had found a safe place well out of reach
in another neighbour's barn.
 # 5
A treat for me.

bon weekend.