Sunday, 24 November 2013

Winter has arrived – or has it ?

Snow on leaves
We heard that snow was on its way this week, but even so it was a surprise to wake on Wednesday morning to see the world covered in white. The leaves still haven’t dropped from the trees in the forest, which made for big problems. The heavy snowfall weighed down on the leaves and many branches have broken under the weight, taking electrical cables with them. We had a few mini-power cuts (5 minutes or less) but not everyone was so lucky. Large chunks of Cluny and the surrounding villages were out for most of the day and when we spoke to our fruit seller in the market on Saturday morning, he said that Trivy (a village not so far away that has a very good jazz festival in the summer) was still cut off!

The snow fell for four nights running, big thick layers of it, which has now all melted, swelling the river running through the village almost to breaking point and leaving huge puddles in our already waterlogged garden. With such wet conditions we have had some thick fog as well the other morning. In any case it has given us a lot to chat (moan) to the neighbours about and a whole new set of proverbs and sayings to learn.

Here are just two of them:

Brouillard en Novembre, l'hiver sera tender - Fog in November and the winter will be gentle

Quand il neige sur les feuilles, l'hiver a avorté. – When it snows on leaves, the winter is aborted.

Winter rations
So good news all round - a warm non-existent winter. We’ll see - I’m not taking any chances though, I have made a huge batch of thick Dutch pea soup to keep us going for a while.

For information on holiday accommodation in Burgundy, where it doesn’t snow in the summer click here.

Monday, 18 November 2013

It’s official - I’m famous

Screen dump of the moment
The day has at last arrived. It is now official. I am famous.

Back in the summer, in Cluny, we saw a blue blob drive by on top of a car and now, a picture of me looking over my shoulder saying “what was that?” has been recorded for posterity and can be viewed by millions around the globe.

Just go on to Street View and there you’ll find us, standing outside the bookshop next to our favourite restaurant La Petite Auberge, just before 12 o’clock when they weren’t quite open and we didn’t want to lose “our” table to those two tourists also lurking close by.

Here we are again - this time an action shot
After lunch we walked back to our car and were caught on camera again, this time in the Rue Porte de Paris.

What more can I say?

Signed copies are available at very reasonable rates!

For information on holday accommodation near Cluny who's streets have been made famous by our appearance on Street View click here.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Optical Illusion or Not?

Who's the giant now??
Our week in The Netherlands was very eventful. We saw family and friends and generally had a great time catching up on news and eating things you can’t get here in France - who would have thought that I would crave kroketten, stamppot and “normal” bread?

Our trip started on Cees’ daughter’s houseboat/ship in Den Bosch, a lovely old town in the south. Whilst there, we went to an exhibition about optical illusions which had some lovely examples of “trompe l’oeils”, but also included some interesting perspective tricks which I had read about when studying psychology some years ago now. In particular, the Ames room was an “experiment” that I had always wanted to try out in reality. It is all well and good reading about it and seeing the photos but it is another things being in the experiment yourself. I was so excited to see, in the exhibition, that there was the opportunity to try out Ames room in person. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this is an optical illusion or not.

The next stop on our journey was Amsterdam, which we finally reached Monday afternoon after driving through some terrifying winds and traffic conditions. The radio was full of death and destruction and it appeared that Amsterdam was on total lock-down. A phone call to our friends encouraged us to continue our journey, but indeed when we arrived, the trams and trains had been shut down due to fallen trees, the main arteries in the city were cut off and the airport was closed for a number of hours. Sadly these photos from just down the road from our friends' home on the Jacob van Lennepkade, are not an optical illusion, the photo on the left is what a lovely blue house boat looked like in its “normal” state and the photo on the right is what the same lovely blue house boat looked like after a fallen tree has been lifted off it.

Home sweet home
Home and tree gone
Fortunately the owners weren’t home when the tree fell, but just imagine what it must be like to come home from work and find your house sunken…

Our week passed all too quickly, but now we have enough stocks of delicacies like leverworst, filet american and corenwijn to last us a while. On the subject of corenwijn, any connoisseur will know that a true galss of corenwijn had to be poured so that sides of the convex meniscus of this delicious golden liquid touch to top of the glass. There’s only one way to take that first sip.

What can I say??

For information on holiday homes to rent less than a day's journey from The Netherlands click here.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Chicken for Dinner - Again

Bresse chicken, the best in the world
Cees accuses the English of being boring eaters, he says that they always serve chicken. I must admit it, give me a nice piece of chicken and I am a very happy bunny and actually I do notice that when we eat with English friends or relations we do seem to be served chicken on the majority of occasions. But chicken is so nice and versatile isn’t it?

I have recipe books just dedicated to chicken recipes and I have a large ring binder just full of them as well. I could find a different way to cook or serve the stuff every day of the year if I were allowed. Which makes it all the more surprising when I eat at someone’s house and I taste chicken done in a way I have never tasted before. That was just what happened on my “early birthday”.

On that occasion, I was served chicken which was absolutely divine. I have finally received the recipe, which has winged its way down the wires (or was it WiFi) from the far reaches of the North American coast. So a big thank you to Ricki who sent me the recipe and an even bigger thank you to Simone the originator. And here it is:

Last night's dinner, yummy
Chicken with balsamic vinegar sauce

4 chicken breasts
Flour with salt & pepper added
1 ½ Tbs butter
1 ½ Tbs olive oil
3 – 4 finely chopped shallots
50 ml balsamic vinegar
50ml chicken stock
1 Tbs butter

Coat the chicken with the flour/salt/pepper mix.
Fry the floured chicken gently in the first lot of butter and the olive oil until done.
Remove and set aside.
Add the shallots to the frying pan and sauté for a few minutes.
Add the vinegar and stock to the shallots and reduce by half.
Add the second lot of butter and allow to melt.
Either add the chicken pieces back to the pan to coat in the sauce, or serve the sauce over chicken when it is on each plate.

After that, does anyone dare tell me chicken is boring?…

For information on some lovely holiday accommodation in Burgundy not far from the home of the Bresse chicken click here.

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