Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Décembre, Noël et plus encore soleil... et quelques petits pâtés

Sunshine Happy

A busy start to the month with a charged and intense visit to London. A brilliant few days meeting with friends and using the public transport system in ridiculously cold and white snowy weather - we survived and we can both honestly say that we don't miss the tube for starters and are quite liking the relaxed vibe that rural South West France is providing. We did also trek up to Edinburgh to celebrate Lyndsey & Ali's wedding, no we thought that the stresses of travelling in minus degree weather across London everyday just wasn't enough... We were the very few that managed to make it there and back in 24 hours though, and no we didn't fly! It was totally worth it and the train journey up north was just magical, a winter wonderland of complete virgin snow enveloped the country side and the train trailed through the most beautiful landscapes. The wedding was held at the stunning Institute of Physicians and we were spoilt with fine wine, good food and Scottish entertainment - whats that jig called? Love it! Got everyone dancing - brilliant. Thank you to the love birds who are living it up in Costa Rice, nice.

Gingerbread Man, Fourcès 
This side of France has been getting colder day by day and there was a small patch where we too were pretty frozen. However, not quite like London, no where near as much snow but out here in the sticks it gets pretty cold. I found myself most nights huddling next to the fire - literally, till hands, feet and face are hot, bum too! Hot water bottle in bed every night, that's when most of the arguments start - we only have one and once you got that by your feet in the bed, you aint sharing nothing!

Lac, Le Houga
Lac avec la glace
Early Morning, Le Pehaou
The countryside has slowly started changing, colours slowly falling from the trees to reveal different hues and tones. Sombre and bleak are not the words that I would choose at all, in fact far from it. Yes, it has been cold but not quite bitter yet, we have that in January and February. There is still green and a bit of dark amber, not so much like the vibrant hues of Autumn but we are still seeing all of this mostly backed by a gorgeous immense blue sky. Remembering London and I can't really tell you about the sky so much unless we had a stunning sunset but also cause I never really looked up. Here, we are looking, more than ever before - its just amazing.

The Christmas market in Fourcès was full of all things that you want in the lead up to Christmas, roasted chestnuts, hot mulled wine and crepes! This is where we venture, normally on a Sunday to browse through the brocante and relax, Its a village we have been to a few times now and we love it there. It always rains hard when we go but not this time... maybe St.Nick had something to do with it!

'A Crepe for your beard sir?'

Marrons Grilles
There were trees, the biggest ones you ever did see, mince pies, enough for a King and then there were lights, crackers, ribbons and sparkles and a Christmas wreath that we made all for a special Christmas at La Forêt. Mistletoe from the tallest tree was cut down and hung, holly was poked in every corner, oranges were pierced with cloves and Santa's little elves were at their most busiest. Christmas cake served drunk after a few sittings with the ol' Armagnac and butter that was laced with the finest of tipple - all in preparation for a Christmas to remember...
The Nordmann Fir

We got Sunshine...

... and we got snow!

So for this special Christmas, you will need...

Mince Pies
And a Winning Christmas Cake!

...And after!

Mistletoe overlooking the Courtyard

The Proud Cock

A Little Frozen

At Le Pehaou we decked the halls with a bit of holly and treated ourselves to a Christmas tree too. There's something rather exciting about being able to hang stockings by the fireplace and huddle by the fire whilst its cold outside... I have never had a real wood burner before and I have to say that it is ever so rewarding after a hard days work to light it, sit back enjoy the smells of oak burning and feel the ambiance of a roaring fire. Coco seems to love it too and will often curl up right in front or even next to it and snore away...

Duck a la Laura & Jon! Yes we had a duck this Christmas, which we glazed in top notch marmalade, stuffed with sage and clementines and served with a homemade Armagnac (of course!) and cherry jus! It was cooked to perfection, which we were very pleased with and was just divine. I really would recommend it as it was easy, hard to overcook and a real difference to white birds which we are so used to eating.

So that's all I got this time folks... we are taking a few days and heading to the Alps to spend New Year with friends so until next year, have a good one, eat, drink and be merry. 2010 has been a terrific year and I feel hugely positive that 2011 will be too - for us all. It was about change and positive direction. My Cellandia card business was launched and has been received with great interest and December I created the first Christmas card collection, all are now on my website We left our busy London lives and our Battersea cottage (!) and moved here, we have embarked on this journey which has been both hard and stressful but equally if not more highly rewarding. From one spectrum to the other and we are embracing it more and more day by day. The last four months have been a huge learning curve for us both - the adjustments from inner city life, which lets face it can get a little monotonous to the most rural country living, back to basics and then some - we have come a long way. Look at Jon, his face is covered in hair! Not forgetting the best part of 2010, our engagement, a special time for us both and what an amazing year it has been. I cannot wait for the New Year and all that it brings.

So with all of that, we both wish all of you Simply The Best for 2011!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mon anniversaire et toutes les couleurs de l'automne & l'histoire des disparus Cock

Look what came to say Bonjour!

Fires burning

Like father, like daughter - of course watching telly!

Birthday Sunset
Chin chin! Even Coco joined us!

Celebrating started Halloween...where we enjoyed the 'Armagnac Fete' and where better to celebrate than the heart of Armagnac - La Bastide d'Armagnac - a beautiful historical village steeped in history! The houses all look like they're part of a film set. All the local farmers came to sell their Armagnac and to celebrate the end of the harvest. For 400 years they have been drinking and celebrating Armagnac so we thought why not join can imagine my delight!

It was a sunny and wet day October 31st, La Bastide d'Armagnac was filed with people drinking and tasting the fine spirit and there was plenty of varieties to choose from - ages going back to 1960. In the square they had tents where locals sold their finest foods which you could buy as part of a set menu for lunch, along with a glass of wine. Everything from foie gras to fresh oysters, mussels to seafood soup and even pizza cooked there in front of you! We were spoilt for choice!

Doing it French!
Bet you didn't know...In the 14th century, Prior Vital Du Four, a Cardinal, claimed it had 40 virtues:

"It makes disappear redness and burning of the eyes, and stops them from tearing; it cures hepatitis, sober consumption adhering. It cures gout, cankers, and fistula by ingestion; restores the paralysed member by massage; and heals wounds of the skin by application. It enlivens the spirit, partaken in moderation, recalls the past to memory, renders men joyous, preserves youth and retards senility. And when retained in the mouth, it loosens the tongue and emboldens the wit, if someone timid from time to time himself permits."

So, along with most of France and I think Andrea and her mum, we all poured ourselves a glass!

My birthday fell on the Monday and we had rain and shine. Got treated to a lovely dinner at Le Pehaou...

Birthday Anemones

My new olive trees!

We have been so lucky to have witnessed one of the best displays of autumn colours by being here in the country! Every hue you can think of and day by day we would wake up to a view of these amazing changing colours. Despite a lot of heavy rain and some pretty bad storms having an expanse of view to admire every day is something you just can't complain about. I think here you begin to realise how much you are actually looking... literally, looking at the horizon, up at the sky, into the trees, forests and you can't say an awful lot of that happens in London unless your enjoying Battersea, Richmond or one of the other parks! 

Garden research

The Chevaliers came to visit us which was really good despite the non stop rain, it literally did not stop for the 4 days they were here, but spirits remained high! We took them to all the beautiful villages we love and wined and dined by the fire every day. There was an evening we enjoyed local Floc and ended up singing and dancing. It was a night to remember...An amazing roast dinner, followed by the theatre and a bit of late night dancing along to our favourite tunes...All in the dining room! Amazing what the local Floc can do! For those less experienced, it is a sweetened Armagnac (of course!) must be had by all, come dear friends and enjoy it with us! We visited vineyards and a local restaurant with lots of good reviews, a superb lunch although I ordered something I really couldn't eat (sadly, the French menu was difficult to understand!) and Vanessa got showered at the table! (Oh dear!). I guess it's the French way... Good times and a great few days for sure.
So the nights are drawing in and its getting colder. The fires are started late afternoon and they heat the house for most of the night. Yes thats if your wood stack is dry and your wood is not too big for the burner...yeah a few little mishaps and one or two frozen nights tucked up in bed with everything on and more! We are getting there though, it just makes you realise how much you we took for granted the central heating back in England! Switch on, switch off! So you can imagine me with a saw cutting the wood to make kindling whilst Jon rested his arm after dislocating his shoulder after falling in the pond looking for a missing cock!

Yes its true, after terrible storms one night the cockrel went missing and sadly we found that one of the hen's had drowned. We were upset as we have become pretty attached to our little feathered friends believe it or not. We both searched the garden and bushes to see if the cock had got stuck anywhere but sadly no... Jon proceeded to search and thought that the cock might have also drowned so started looking in the pond... He lost his footing as all the banks were so wet and he fell in and dislocated his shoulder! Soaked through from head to toe, it took me nearly 10 minutes just to pull his water filled wellies off! Sling and a few strong painkillers later he was doing alright. So I was chief fire starter that week and of course drove us everywhere - I'm not that bad you know, a few near ditch misses but nothing major!

We are busy at La Foret, working hard at getting the garden prepared for winter, cutting, pruning and planting winter veg and flowers. Getting a good wood supply piled up in the barn and covering up the swimming pool until the Spring.

Again soon.