Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May's other C - for Coffee

Following on from my personal promise to myself that it should be quality and quantity that counts, coffee has been the next thing to come under scrutiny.

Not that long ago I never drank coffee, only black tea.  Over the last few years I have developed a need for caffeine in order to face the day, in fact it would be fair to say that without my coffee in the morning I am not human, bearing in mind I am normally up at about 6.00am to start my day.

Over the years we have drunk any number of cheap brands, middle of the road brands, then cheapo brands, then anything we found on offer in the supermarket, never having developed a favourite flavour.

But on a recent flea market trawl I bagged one of these - an Italian coffee percolator.

I love the way these look, but looking good is not enough, it is time to use it now, with some good quality Arabica ground coffee.  Now that should have me bouncing around first thing ready to start the day!

How to use an Italian Percolator:

Unscrew the base from the top and remove the filter.

Fill the bottom reservoir with water to just below the expansion nipple.

Use a heaped teaspoon of coffee for each cup of water - this percolator makes coffee at expresso strength so don't stint on the coffee grounds!

Put the coffee into the filter and place that on top of the base, then screw on the top.

The top reservoir will be empty until you put the precolator onto the heat.

As the water starts to boil it will rise through the coffee grounds and emerge into the top of the percolator, when it has finished boiling, the coffee is ready. 

Beware the hot steam though, and let it finish boiling through before trying to pour.

If drinking black, serve into little expresso cups, but the coffee also lends itself well to cappucino and lattes as it is strong enough to hold its own against the milk.

Off for my second cup now, that should keep me awake through Thea's choral concert tonight.

May's C of cooking.........

Hmmm, now this is a really hard one, because I have not been doing much new recipe stuff this month. 

In an attempt to save some money after being away for Brendan's birthday earlier in May we have been eating a lot of leftovers, quiches and salads.  In addition as Thea and I have been watching our weight, there has been no baking either, apart from bread to go with the salads and soups.

In place of a recipe, here instead therefore are some low calorie snack ideas for breakfasts and light lunches for those who are also watching their weight.

Never having been much of a breakfast eater, making myself eat an additional meal in order to lose weight was a real mind bender, but this is where I have found myself -  a fruity, yoghurty muesli mix.

Start with whatever fruit you have in your garden or what is in season or what you fancy, for me that is a banana and either kiwi or strawberry, or more recently cherries too.

Pour over a small 100ml pot of natural yoghurt, and add a small handful - approx 20g of mixed nut muesli.

This makes a great breakfast for about 250 calories (if you are counting).

We have also been eating a lot of salads, with lettuce leaves, radishes and chives from the garden, shop bought tomatoes, canned sweetcorn and last years pickled beetroots. 

Alongside a loaf of home baked bread, this is a salad filling enough to be a meal in itself, but I usually add a smoked herring or some sardines to balance it out.

We have been cutting out quite a bit of bread too, usually if I bake a loaf it lasts the three of us a couple of days, then I'll leave it a couple of days before baking another.  The days that we don't have bread are the days that I'll add in some wheat via home made pasta.

Up front I have to say that I don't believe in low fat versions of things like yoghurt, cup a soups, spreads, milk, cheese, cream etc etc, especially if you are going to the trouble to make something from scratch you make it with the ingredients that make it taste at its best.  Just eat less of it!

Nor do I believe in doing without, if you want chocolate, then have 25g for about 100 calories for a snack, or a two finger KitKat rather than an enourmous bar, if you want crisps than have some, just not a family sized pack, and that goes for most things.  Thea and I may be watching our weight and calorie intake but we still have sweeties and pork scratchings and peanuts, just in moderation.

I certainly don't believe in diets that cut out fruit and veg, like Atkins or the current fad doing the rounds in France, the Dukan diet.  For my snacks during the day, I eat my five a day, apples, carrot sticks, tomatoes sliced with salt and pepper, grapefruit, bananas, and tinned fruit in juice, sunflower seeds and sultanas.

Here are another few 'lighter' meal ideas:

Breakfasts (approx 200-250 calories)

1 x wholemeal scone with 1 tablespoon of butter and a handful of berries
1 x toasted teacake topped with a sliced banana
2 x slices of wholemeal bread toasted with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1 x Smoothie made from a 125ml pot of yoghurt, handful of strawberries, handful of blueberries and 100ml of apple juice
1 x toasted non-sweetened bagel with 2 tablespoons of apple cooked into a puree with a handful of sultanas
2 x slices wholemeal toast with a scrambled egg made with a splash of  milk, salt, pepper, paprika and parsley
2 x slices of wholemeal toast with grilled sliced tomato
Porridge made with 4 tablespoons of porridge oats, to 4 tablespoons of milk, topped off with water and a handful of sultanas for sweetness

Lighter Lunches  (approx 250-300 calories)

Grilled fillet of an oily fish (mackerel or herring) with a leafy green salad, balsamic vinegar and chives
Sliced tomatoes with pickled gerkhins, onions and a splash of chilli oil on 3 rice cakes
2 x handfuls of pasta cooked then tossed with chilli flakes,ground black pepper and cherry tomatoes
1 x can of drained crab meat with green salad leaves and sliced raddishes
2 x handul of prawns fried in a drop of chilli oil, served on 3 rice crackers
1 x cup of a thick soup, either a homemade one like my Thai pumpkin or a shop bought cup a soup and a thick slice of home made bread for dipping
1 x pitta bread stuffed with leafy salad and a boiled egg
2 x slices of home made bread spread with 2 tablespoons of brie and thinly cut apple slices

May's C of Creation - Pretty as a picture

When it comes to decorating Brendan and I never agree, on colour, on textiles, on furniture placement, nothing.

So trying to decorate the house is a nightmare, which is why I have resorted to doing things while he is out of the way on a bike rally.

Having managed to paint walls and move furniture around already this year, I am now tackling some of the blank canvas walls I have created.

(Brendan rode off to Bordeaux this morning so I am free to decorate to my heart's content.)

I am lousy at choosing pictures, I have no eye for a painting or wall art at all, but at the start of the year both Brendan and I managed to find this calendar full of copies of old enamel advertising plates for soaps, and we both agreed that we liked the pictures.

Here is a 'how to' create a picture from a calendar.

Cut out the picture that you like, cut right to the edges leaving no borders around it.

The next bit depends on what you have got knocking around, but at a push you can use some thick box cardboard. One of the best things to use is bits of plaster board off cuts, which thanks to a builder friend I have large pile of in the barn! Also, old lever arch folder covers are good, as is plyboard.

Cut a piece of your backing material to the same size as your picture. If you are using plyboard or plaster, you can rub the edges with a bit of sandpaper to get a smooth finish. Liberally apply a coat of PVA glue, which has the advantage of being easy to clean up as well as cheap, over all of your backing medium, especially the edges to seal them together. Leave to dry for about 30 minutes.

Then apply a thick layer of PVA to the backing piece and stick down your picture. If you apply a thick enough coat of glue you will find that you can easily slide the picture around to line it up neatly, then press the edges down gently to get the PVA to squidge out of the sides, and with your finger tip, smooth this glue surplus up onto the picture itself to create a good seal all around the edge. Leave to dry for about an hour to ensure the glue is completely set.

Once the picture is glued down firmly and the PVA has gone off - it will be translucent rather than white, paint a layer of glue over the picture, running the brush over the sides of your backing medium, leave to dry and repeat a couple of times to create a varnish like finish over the picture.

Then hang on your wall of choice, I used a hot glue gun to stick some cotton kitchen string to the backs of my pictures and hung them one above the other in the bathroom. A nice surprise for Brendan when he gets back.

Puppy learns a few life lessons

Poor puppy, she has been on a very very steep learning curve since arriving on Saturday.

But she has mastered the first most vital of life's lessons.

Pointy Bits

This is a valuable lesson and one that must be learnt early and it goes like this:

Cats have pointy bits.

Puppies are not allowed to eat out of cat bowls - cats reinforce this rule with pointy bits.
Cats are allowed to eat out of puppy bowls - cats reinforce this rule with pointy bits.

When cats are tired they sleep on puppy beds - cats reinforce this rule with pointy bits.
If puppies are already attempting to take a nap on puppy beds and a cat decides it wants a quick lie down, puppies must move - cats reinforce this rule with pointy bits.

Puppies are not to chase cats - cats reinforce this rule with pointy bits.
Puppies are not allowed to sit on laps, these are cat places - cats reinforce this rule with pointy bits.

And then to add to her education, poor puppy discovered that chickens have pointy bits too:

Chickens have pointy bits even when you sneak up behind them.
Chickens have pointy bits even when you stick your nose through the fencing at them.
Chickens have pointy bits even when they are a plucking just short of a grilling on the BBQ.
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Monday, May 30, 2011


watching the river
through a window of trees...
spring rain falls 

ISSA - 1804    -   .川見ゆる木の間の窓や春の雨         kawa miyuru ko no ma no mado ya haru no ame

Week 21 - Mechanical

Due to various things, last week's photo for the 52 images for 2011 flickr group is a bit of a disaster.

The theme was mechanical, and I did have some ideas but ended up with this, which I am not happy with, but it is at least on theme.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Life is like a bowl of cherries ....

We went off on Sunday morning full of vim and vigour to the car boot sale, and it turned out to be one of those occasions when I bought nothing save for a small enamel saucepan for 50 cents.

On the up side all of the cherry trees were completely laden with fruit, so on the way home we foraged a carrier bag full of juicy ripe cherries, and ate about a kilo between us too.

Once home I weighed the bag and we had gathered nearly 4 kilos of free cherries.  Yummy.

Or I thought so to start off with, now I have eaten my way through another kilo of fresh cherries, their appeal is starting to wane a little.  And I don't know any sugar (calorie) free ways of using cherries.  I have whizzed some up and seived them to freeze into ice cubes for cocktails, but I am totally idea free, and merely find my hand straying with a life of its own towards the huge fruit bowl overflowing in the centre of the table.  I am sure I have consumed my five a day for the whole week over the last two days just by grabbing a handful of cherries every time I walk through the kitchen.

I am nearing my target (set on the Wii FitPlus) and to treat myself I took myself off by myself to do the shopping.  I may have mentioned previously how much I hate supermarket shopping, but have discovered that I can make it bearable by going first thing in the morning, and going alone.  That way I can stick to my list, without having to cruise the aisle like a zombie staring bleary eyed at promotions that I don't want; the shopping then gets done in 20 minutes instead of the hour and a half that Brendan can waste in the shop.

In honour of the glorious sunshine, 21° C by 10 am this morning, I thought I would reveal my legs to the world and wear a skirt for a change.  This is something that I have been looking forward to, having found them a little bit tight previously, but I was not expecting them to collapse to my ankles even when fully zipped and buttoned.  In fact my nemesis skirts are the only ones that fit me now.  Gosh.

Next Petite size 12

Lypsy for Topshop size S-M

I finally found a safety pin and pinned my 'start of the holiday' skirt around my waist.  (What is a 'start of the holiday' skirt?  I bet you have one too, or a pair of short or jeans or trousers - you know the ones, you really like them, but you have to wear them right at the start of the holiday because they are a just right fit, and by the end of a holiday of eating and drinking, they are a little too snug for comfort.)

Wearing a skirt made me feel all girly and I found myself swirling it around my ankles as I strolled the aisles.  Hopefully I didn't scare the staff too much, after all it was only 9 in the morning - a bit early for swirling really.

I really need some new clothes, I can't remember the last time I had to buy new clothes because my existing wardrobe is too big for me.  Luckily the sales start on the 22nd of June this year in France.

My new motto is going to be quality not quantity.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Flickr image updates..

For week 19 the theme was cold - and this is the image I chose, taken from our three day weekend / holiday trip.

Thea and I really enjoyed the beach at Séte, so much so that if we can save up enough pennies over the summer we shall try to grab another weekend this summer by the sea, leaving Brendan behind to take care of the animals.  
For Week 20 - the theme was the Seven Deadly Sins.

Now I started off with clever ideas for each of the sins and plans to depict them each day and build up a portfolio over the week.  In reality I only captured two of the seven sins, and chose this entry for Vanity.

What's for dinner tonight.....

Continuing the theme of leftovers this week - poor family, they have been fed a smorgasbord of leftovers this week - old grotty ham from the fridge in quiches, soft squidgy tomatoes in yet more quiches, frozen chilli con carne leftovers in pasties, and limp hot dogs and out of date ready roll flaky pastry for sausage rolls.

But tonight I am going one better, the whole dinner is made up of random leftovers I found when making space in the freezer in the barn, so here goes:

Take a couple of handfulls of frozen cherry tomatoes
About 1 large chopped leek
A bowlful of frozen french beans
and 8 random chestnuts

Unfortunately I did not peel the chestnuts before freezing them, therefore first things first, boil the chestnuts for a couple of minutes then while still hot, peel the bitter skin off, although this does scald your fingers, it is much easier to do while the chestnuts are hot.  Once peeled, roughly chop the chestnuts.

In a large pan, pour in a tablespoon of olive oil, then the chopped chestnuts, a couple of grinds of black peppercorns, and 2 cloves of garlic just smashed up with the blade of your knife.  Fry for a couple of minutes, then add a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of paprika, and a teaspoon of dried chillies.

Add the leek to the pan (no need to defrost), fry until the leek is soft, then add the cherry tomatoes, and continue frying until the tomatoes are soft too.  

Add a litre of chicken stock, the beans and leave to cook for about 8 minutes, until the beans are cooked through.

To finish, a big pinch of dried oregano, stir through and serve as a side to whatever meat you have knocking around, we had ours alongside some beef steaks I bought reduced a while ago.  Mop up the juices with a couple of doorstep wedges of homemade multi grain bread.

I find my family can manage to stomach leftovers if served alongside some good thick portions of quality meat, pork chops, roast chicken legs and beef steaks.

Why diet food has to be visually pleasing!

Because otherwise it is dull dull dull.

So when faced with a cup-a-soup, some rice cakes and a tomato, visual pleasure and flavour becomes very important. Hence the thick slice of rich ripe organic tomato, liberally sprinkled with sea salt, ground black pepper corns, decorated with a couple of tiny pickled onions, then a final flourish, a pinch of dried basil.

Low fat, but still yummy - and each rice cake with garnish only equals 30 cals, so you can indulge in several!
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Adventures of the Princess Julietta - OR - the alternative version of the 'Wife Swap' manual

The Adventures of the Princess Julietta and Lord Kuhn

Once upon a time in a land far far away in the best tradition of the best fairy tales ever told, there lived a beautiful princess.  Her name was Julietta and she had hair the hue and lustre of the blackest of raven wings, eyes that twinkled with the light of mischievous glee yet could be as soft and gentle as those of the dearest fawn and lips that were as soft as rosebuds.  She lived in a high tower the colour of an autumnal sunset surrounded by beautiful flowers that dipped their hands in acknowledgment of her majesty whensoever she stepped out into the verdant gardens.  Princess Julietta did not live there alone, she was accompanied by her prince, Lord Kuhn, a gentle natured carpenter with a heart full of love and compassion.

One day the princess decided that an adventure was called for to relive the tiresomeness of her courtly duties to the dowager queen.  So she packed a case and summoned her faithful steed and her handsome prince and together they set off in search of adventure.

They travelled for many miles through forests and ravines, deserts and town, until they happened upon a beautiful house with bright sunlit windows and white walls, where chickens pecked lazily at the clover in the lush gardens and swallows dipped their tails in joy as they flew around the sun drenched stones of the centuries old buildings.

The princess declared the house to be perfect, and so Prince Kuhn carried in her vestments, picking the brightest room for themselves with its clear view of the snow capped distant mountains, where they could watch each day dawn with the sun shyly peeking through the delicately scented lilac tree to awaken them. 

Oh Woe – for this is a fairy story after all, and as with all fairy stories there must be an interlude of arduous struggle before the happy ever after ending, and so it is here.  For little did the beautiful Princess Julietta know, but this house set in its idyllic location, nestled in the lea of the valley, huddled at the far reaches of the shadow of the great volcano belongs to a wicked witch and her ferocious henchman and vicious acolyte.

The Curse

The wicked witch and her gnarled fellows had been living in the house for centuries, their very sprits inured in the fabric of the structures until this restless time when they too had forsaken their palace in search of adventure. 
The very same house that Julietta and her bodyguard were even now making their own.  

Because the witch was a very wicked witch, she had, as they donned their broomsticks and lofted westwards, cursed the house to prevent any such incursion by beautiful passersby, and now as Julietta’s satin slippered feet stepped gleefully across the flagstones, the hex upon the stones twitched and shifted across the leys of the land and whispered of their presence in the witch’s ear.

Far far away, even now as the princess and her prince settled down to watch the sun set with a rosy glow across the lands stretched before them, the witch rubbed her hands with elation at the thought of the troubles to befall those who had dared to set foot across her precious hearth.

The hex stirred and grunted, twisted and curled, groaned and thrashed until a dark shadow pooled on the stones at the entrance, consolidating its thick form into a hellish hound with a malodorous stench.  

The princess shrieked in terror as the prince leapt before her, his hands failing to grasp anything to use as weaponry before this fetid beast of the black tar pits, until at last his hand arrived on a forgotten pump cast into a dark corner of the corridor, he flung the shoe at the horrendous head aiming between the feral eyes of the canine monstrosity.  

As the shoe fell, turning end over end, passing the beast’s head, its dim dark eyes followed the path of the missile, turning the beast around until he passed through the door in close pursuit of the projectile, quick as a flash the prince leapt forward again and slammed shut the barred gate, leaving the beast trapped without.  

Instantly the animal cowered to the ground and from its prone position before the house, excluded from its sanctuary it turned beguiling eyes to the princess.  Her heart, as soft and gentle as the petal on any flower warmed to the beast ‘s peril and she addressed it in soothing tones until its heart too melted and was as soft as the skin of a newborn babe, then they opened the gate and allowed the mutt, for mutt it was, to reenter its abode and settle in slumber on the stone flags, content to live alongside the beautiful princess and the brave prince, knowing full well that their tender hearts would ensure that its water bowl would be filled and food would be provided as dusk fell.

Yet even as the first guardian fell, on the wave of the dark night fall, three others slunk their way towards the vestibule, green glowing eyes and curved fangs raised over cruelly sneering lips, they worked their way past the door and into the presence of the princess and the prince who were reposing dreamily in the cosy interior.

Leaping in one motion to their laps, their paws outstretched with claws at full extent the felines  prepared to attack.  In fear the princess slipped from her chair, scattering before her the crumbs of the meal they had been enjoying. 
The surprising motion threw a scant crumb before the leader of the menacing pack, alighting on a whisker before falling between its gnashing jaws.  Like the snuffing of a candle the change in the creature was as instant.  It fell to the floor with a sonorous purr, seeking further crumbs.  Its leadership, never in dispute, was further clarified for as the giant mouser gentled its nature, so did its companions, cleaning the floor of every crumb, then patiently waiting as the princess with delight filled their silver bowl with vittels.  Once fed and whiskers groomed, each feline sought out the most comfortable of resting places, and so the princess and prince found themselves reclining for the evening with cat on lap, curled in on itself in contentment. 

That night, all three feline guardians slept within, upon a rug laid down before the door with their canine companion, held only within the corridor so as to be best placed for any other unwarranted visitors.

The Silence of the Lambs

As the princess slumbered beneath her downy quilts, the morning sun slipped ever closer to the walls of the house, the first rays falling through the laden boughs of hawthorns and elder, silently weaving through blades of grass and succulent shoots of dandelion, campion and sorrel, before alighting on a small wooden house at the bottom of the garden.  

As the princess smiled and cooed, still wreathed in dreams, a strident shrill broke through the air, then another, then another.  

The prince scrambled to arms, his heart pounding with but one thought, the safety of his beloved Julietta.  As he grabbed for his armaments the horrific bleating seemed to tear through the stone walls to wrench at his guts.  Being the bravest of brave princes he advanced upon the wooden building that seemed to be the source of the chilling sounds, then flung wide the wooden door.

Two huge beasts of cloven hooves immediately tore through the opening racing wildly across the green pasture before turning and aiming directly for the princes’ legs.  He dropped his arms and made for the fencing hoping ardently that it would be of sufficient strength to withhold the charge of the beasts, as he neared it he leapt gracefully several metres into the air, before falling back to earth, inhaling the sweet aroma of haven on the other side of the fence.  He hastened to the side of his newly arisen princess and implored her to leave this cursed house.

But the princess did not want to leave, she turned her face to the sun and thought long and deep, before declaring that no doubt the beasts had arisen with the same hunger she now felt in her own maw, and that if they could but find the right nourishment that the beasts would settle and be as lambs before them.  

So the princess and the resigned prince searched the house, and they found a packet of wondrous white powder, which when a heaped scoopful was mixed with hot and cold water to a tepid temperature, then distributed between the beasts by means of two bottles with rubber teats, did tame them and they were like gentle lambs, until the eve, when another two such long pulls of the sweet milk did calm the beasts and they slept like two young babes beneath a blanket of straw, with door firmly closed to ward against disaster.

And the witch cackled with derision when she saw through her scrying mirror the prince running pell mell across the dewy grass, then spat with venom when she saw how the clever princess had filled the cavernous maws of the beasties and tamed their wild natures into placid creatures of the cud.

The Holy Hand grenade of Antioch ( – otherwise known as the scene with the nasty big pointy teeth)

As the princess slumbered beneath her downy quilts, the morning sun slipped ever closer to the walls of the house, the first rays slipping serpent like through the trailing vines of dark ivy and alluring buds of rowan before alighting on the dark iron grilled railings of several purpose built pens.

As the princess smiled and cooed, still wreathed in dreams, a harsh knocking could be heard, so loud and strong that the very foundations beneath their beds shook in fear.

The prince catapulted himself to his feet and raced to retrieve his vestments, his first and only thought, the protection of his beautiful slumbering Juliette.  He tore through the house and emerged into the dawn light, the knocking still reverberating along his spine, he bravely followed the sound around to the side of the house, where he spied the metal casements framed by concrete and trellis. 

 He carefully approached the grill, certain now that from within came the dread sound.  As he paused to peer into the murky darkness, a flash of fur then red staring eyes perceived him through the gloom.  The prince turned and hurried to his princess’s side, urging her to be done with this cursed mansion.
But the princess raised her eyes to the cerulean sky and followed the course of a cloud as it winged its way to the sea before declaring that no doubt the dread creatures had awoken from their slumber slaked by thirst much as her throat too burned for the sweet release of hot nectar.  

So the princess and the prince searched until they found the red receptacle that would carry the water to the furred raging beasts, and so calmed were they by the sweet stuff that the prince was able to provide sustenance that he found in a large vat within the doorway of a stone room, by means of the small silver pan held there for that very purpose.  

And so it was when the caged creatures were tamed by food and drink, the prince and princess were able to observe for themselves the beauty in the furred, long, lithe bodies of the creatures, and even more, were honoured to observe the young cavorting in play alongside their sires.

And more so alongside the focculent cottontails, they discovered a cage of small birds that ran to their hands in return for small amounts of fresh water and crumbled food , which was also to be found in a large bin in the entrance to the stone chamber, in return for which Julietta and her prince feasted on rich cholesterol free eggs for lunch every day.

And the witch cackled with derision when she saw through her scrying mirror the prince struggling to pull aside the metal impediments in his path, then howled in spite when she saw how the clever princess had correctly divined the surest method of taming the wild red eyed beasts with pellets of verdant luzerne and soft spring waters.

The tale of Kim Quy

As the princess slumbered beneath her downy quilts, the morning sun slipped ever closer to the walls of the house, the first rays trickling delicately through the trailing fronds of the giant weeping willow, to hover then dart with free abandon to the red brick house tucked away in the deep shadows.
As the princess smiled and cooed, still wreathed in dreams, a shrill cawing raked through the air, a sound so bloodcurdling as to cleave your tongue to the roof of your mouth.

The prince leapt from his bed, fully clothed with sword in hand ready to battle whatever foe the witch had called to her aid, for he, not only as handsome as a young oak, was also clever and had ascertained that the troubles that thrust themselves upon his beautiful charge were so menacing that they could only have been as the result of a hand of evil behind them.

He ran to the door of the house and fumbled the catch open, then spilling into the morning light he chased down the menacing din.  He approached the wooden door in the red brick building with no mere trepidation, but thoughts of his princess’s safety ever paramount he girded his loins and prepared to face down his enemies.  With shaking hand made firm by resolve he pulled back the bolt and released – hundreds of feathered flying brutes, with beaks and talons they raked his flesh, and even as he beat them back yet more emerged to ravage his feet and legs.

Julietta riven from her slumber by the incessant clamour of the feathered fiends, called to her prince to retreat to the safety of the metal barricade and together they pulled the gated barrier shut before any of the fiends could escape.  

This foe was greater in number and verocity than any they had previously faced, and their fear in the face of this enemy was great.  The prince sighed and implored the princess to accept defeat and to retreat to their own tower, which must surely be bereft of the heat of their presence by now.  

But the princess raised her eyes to the dark mists and high peaks of the volcanic horizon, then turned to the prince and mused that perhaps the fiends had merely awoken in fear in much the same way she had when bidden to arise alone without the reassuring warmth of her prince beside her.

So she took the prince by the hand, and with a raiment of light and love, they went back to the enclave together and with nod and smile they calmed the feathered harpies at their feet, until they found that by taking grain from the sack they found conveniently tucked away in easy reach in the barn by measure of the red vessel contained therein for that very purpose, the harpies were magically transformed once more into commonplace barnyard fowl, content to pluck and cluck, and were further rewarded with rich yellow yolked eggs for their repast.

Amongst the flock they discovered one who was wracked with age, stepping daintily upon cracked and weathered feet, and this one they took separately and positioned her beneath the flowering blooms of the lilac tree with water and food and were rewarded when each day she lived a little longer.
And the witch cackled with derision when she saw through her scrying mirror the prince fleeing through the doors and gates that imprisoned him in her cursed house, then cast tears of acid hate when she spied the love and peace that the princess bestowed upon her flock with pannikins of ripe yellow grain.

The House of Horrors

As the malediction upon the house flickered and wasted before the witch’s far seeing eyes, she gathered her minions to her and prepared to return to face the transgressors  in person; the princess and the prince were bathed in sun lit glory, having found that the house contained many wonders.

They found that by the saying of spells and the use of magical devices they were able to enjoy many marvels housed in the four walls of the witch’s residence.

In one room containing a large black box and with comfortable seating,  the princess devised a simple spell of her own making to observe the delights of satellitic visions (LG power, input, AV1), and a further simple formula to observe the delights of many shiny discs she discovered (LG power, input, AV2, Philips, power, play).

In one room they found a pair of caged of doves, who would greet the dawn each morning with velvet song, these they fed from the tin of seeds kept alongside, and nourished their throats with fresh water every morning in reward for their chorus.

In another room they found a fish with scales that reflected every beam of light in glorious hues of blue and green, and they rewarded this display with three tiny specks of food every morn.

They discovered that as long as the sun shone, there was hot water for all, if the day dawned cold and grey, a cheerful fire could be lit in the kitchen, plentiful wood being stored in the dry barn alongside the house, and that by this fire could both warm themselves and cook, and by means of lighting it would provide hot water too.  

In the kitchen they discovered a room full of wondrous foodstuffs from around the world, and they partook of all its delights, only to find them magically replenished on every shelf.  They feasted on chocolates from the distant shores of Cadbury, crunchy savouries from the exotic ports of Hula and Skips, oriental spices with angel hair noodles from the shores of the oriental seas of Thai and drank of the bottles of liquid libations that came in every hue of red and gold.

In the garden and greenhouses they discovered all manner of green growing things and found that by the application of water through a carrying vessel they could maintain all that miraculous growth.

But each minute that passed bought the witch and her evil entourage closer still.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Until eventually by stealthy cover of night the witch and her associates came upon the house, which they found wreathed in light as the mighty Prince Kuhn challenged the delightful Princess Julietta to a game of wit and skill (power, input, AV3, Wii magic wand, power).

The very grounds of the estate glowed with the presence of the joy the happy couple had bought with them and bestowed upon the house, its guardians and the transformations they had wrought within and without.

The witch was astounded and fell to her knees, overawed by all that had transpired during her absence, and with heart hardening, vowed never to leave her chancel again.

Then she took up the axe conveniently located just within the door of the outbuilding, next to the pile of wood for the fires, and cleaved the heads from the bodies of the brave prince and the beautiful princess.

And the witch and her family lived happily ever after – well nobody said that EVERYONE got to live happily ever after!

Monday, May 9, 2011

....and your mother smells of elderberries

So Brendan turned 40 and we all took the opportunity to poke fun and laugh at his old age!

But it was a perfect excuse to go on holiday, our first all together in 5 years, so we packed up our kitbags and headed south to the sea - our first glimpse of it for over 5 years too!  Hence Thea's rush to get her feet wet (see the previous post - week 18 - Play).

Thanks to some wonderful friends who offered to house, animal and garden sit we set off after Brendan had had his full English breakfast on Friday!

Taking the main motorway south saw us crossing the Millau bridge that afternoon:

In the fantastic sunny weather against the glorious blue skies it was just like being on an enormous sail boat.

We decided to visit Narbonne that first night, having found a budget hotel for the night, we drove off to see the sea.

As it was evening we just had time for a quick stroll along the front, although Thea did find time to rush off to visit the sea itself.
Obviously I took my camera and spent my evening taking photos of my beautiful daughter,
before we headed back for a quick KFC over a bottle of champagne.

The next day, we headed off to Carcassone 

When we were trying to decide what to do to mark this momentous birthday, visiting a big castle was top of the list, and we are lucky enough to only live a few hours from this medieval walled city.
And of course it offered the opportunity to stand on the ramparts and re-enact key scenes from Monty Python's Holy Grail....

altogether now.....'I spit in your general direction', 'your mother smells of elderberries' and the classic ' fetchez le vache'......
Oh yes - we had all the classic lines - lucky me...
We wandered the streets and did all the touristy tat shops,  
then wandered around the castle itself, then back around the streets again for a bit of gift shopping.
And I took a couple more photos of Thea.

Our last day of the long weekend was spent in a small town recommended to us by some friends.  Séte is situated about half way between Montpellier and Perpignan, and has a lovely cosmopolitan air, with a boat harbour running through the centre of town.

With yet more blue skies and temperatures in the high twenties, it was time to spend some time on the beach.

While Thea splashed around.. 
I went for a long long long walk along the beach, collecting pretty stones, meanwhile Brendan fed his tapeworm..

As you can see he is a natural beach person, shoes and socks on, thick jumper and long jeans, no wonder we attracted so many stares from the speedo clad locals!
After a couple of hours poor Brendan had had enough so we brushed the sand from our feet and drove home.

I love living in France.

Week 18 - Play - 52 images for 2011

I know I am a bit late but I do have a good reason - Brendan turned 40 last Friday so we took our first holiday together for over 5 years.  This shot was just a spontaneous rush to the sea.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

week 17 - Animal Vegetable Mineral

Had a super day today, one of those days that I wish I could bottle and bring out and sniff on a not so good day.

Started out with a trip to my two lovely ladies that I care for on a Sunday morning, a bit of a chat then nip back to change my shoes for comfy boots for strolling around the car boot sale. The sun is shining and all is well with the world.

Found a parking spot and wandered up and down the stalls finding lots of bits and bobs, including fabric remnants for a couple of euros, another cast iron pan in a fantastic lime green colour, a pretty white top for a euro ready for my jolly holidays at the end of the week, and best of all these skeins of lambswool for .50€. So I bought a couple in every colour and a couple more crochet cotton skeins and then some more of what ever colour she had.

They are this weeks animal, vegetable and mineral - lambswool, cotton and dye.
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