Sunday, 27 February 2011


On our recent visit to Le Petit-Pressigny we decided to treat ourselves to a belated Valentines Day celebration at La Promenade.  La Promenade is a restaurant about a five minute walk away from our house. This was to be our first visit, and what a treat it turned out to be!

Many people have written about La Promenade and the chef Jacky Dallais, all complimentary and all right. We went with our friends Chris and Sally, who also live in Staffordshire, and have a lovely home near Angles sur l'Anglin.

The meal was a culinary experience from beginning to end. We arrived at 12.45 and left at 5.15 and enjoyed every minute! The ambiance, food and service were all superb. The restaurant was fairly busy; most tables were taken and generally occupied by groups of four to eight diners. We think it is possibly an experience that is good to share with others. Between us we tasted most of what was on offer! I am a typical Libran and find it really hard to choose from a menu, and when the food arrives I usually wish I had ordered something diferent. Tim enjoys just about anything, so is usually happy to swap (I think he likes a quiet life!)

You can see our menu from the photographs, and although it is impossible to convey any impression of the taste, it tasted as good as it looks! I had forgotten to take the camera, but after we had eaten the amuse- bouches, Tim ran home to collect it.

We chose the menu Tradition.

Chris with the wine list.

I can't quite describe the taste of this course which was like a rich creamy soup, but it was yummy!

Tim chose St Jacques  for his entree.

Sally and I both went for the smoked salmon.

Chris' choice the foie gras de canard.

The fish course was merlu en croute.

Wild boar with a delicious creamed cabbage.

Duck breast.


The dessert menu from which we ordered four different desserts.
Grapefruit beignet.

Creme caramel.

Apple lasagne with Granny Smith spaghetti.

Profiterole with hot white chocolate sauce - I wasn't quick enough with the camera here, so it melted a bit.

Petits fours.

Jacky Dallais - the man himself!

After our meal - about to roll home! We then went on a long, long walk.......

Friday, 25 February 2011

One man's junk is another man's treasure......

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk....... Thomas Edison

Junk is the ideal product... the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary..... William S. Burrows

Just a couple of quotations here to sum up why I love to go to brocantes and vide greniers when we are in France. I love them, but Tim doesn't get them at all!

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago both Jean, in her blog A Very Grand Pressigny, and Antoinette in Chez Charnizay, were discussing brocantes. Antoinette mentioned a booklet giving a calendar of events in our region. It is really useful, so I bought one on Antoinette's recommendation. I also managed to pick up a copy for Jean on our recent visit, so here is a sneak preview.

So......thank you Antoinette and Jean. We went to a really good one last year at Chaumussay. In 2011 this event will take place again on August 28th.

Maybe I'll see you there?

P.S. I think William S Burrows was probably referring to a different kind of 'junk' .

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A good day at work?

Is there anything better than a good day at work? Well yes I suppose there is, a good day not at work!

Anyway as work days go, Tuesday was a fantastic one, and the Forensic Scientist really engaged sixty of my pupils. There has been a lot of positive feedback so I'll do this again.

Our central heating boiler, which must be at least 30 years old.
We are counting down to our next visit to Le Petit-Pressigny. We have a few garden jobs lined up if the weather is fine, but mainly we just want to enjoy the house - once we get it warm! First job will be to 'crank' the boiler and get the heating system up and running, and then to switch the electric blanket on.

The hedge, which is about 30 metres long

The trailer, which was nearly full of cuttings and low branches from our trees.
 We think that the hedge will need a cut. Last year as novices, we arrived at the municipal tip at Le Grand- Pressigny with a large trailer nearly full of hedge cuttings. However, not being aware of the system we hadn't bagged the cuttings, causing much consternation amongst the men who work there, as it took us ages to unload. Luckily we did have a big box which we filled with cuttings from the trailer and then carried to the skips - about 50 times! Needless to say we won't be making the same mistake again.

On this trip I'll take some photographs in and around the village, to illustrate just why we love to be there.

We'll keep our fingers crossed for a bit of sunshine.........

P.S. I'm having difficulty moving the photographs around. Is this a general problem, or is it just me?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Psychedelic or what?

On Saturday, I buy a book about baking macarons.....

On Sunday, I blog about said book......

On Monday, Lorraine Pascale demonstrates how to bake macaroons/macarons on her programme 'Baking Made Easy'.........   Jean of 'A Very Grand Pressigny' has written about this programme in her blog. I don't know how to insert a link yet - but I'm sure one of my blogging friends will enlighten me!

Next week, I try out recipes for macarons. keep watching this space............

I'm excited about today. Firstly I have a Forensic Scientist in school working with some gifted, talented and interested pupils for the whole day. I also throw into the mix some pupils for whom I want to raise their aspirations. Mostly this works, but I'll let you know later in the day!

This evening, we are meeting my son near J21 of the M6 for a meal. This is about half way, he is at the University of Lancaster so he will drive down and we will drive up. It will be good to see him before we go away. He will appreciate the free meal and the food parcel! I miss Tom, his sister Rhiannon was at Keele University , so popped home most weeks - mainly to drop off or collect her washing!

Sunday, 13 February 2011


* apologies for the lack of accents, I am working on this!

Yesterday I bought a cookery book. Not an unusual event, as I tend to buy a lot of cookery books; what I rarely do is use them! A friend once described me as 'a very good rustic cook'. There's nothing like being damned with faint praise!

Now John is a very nice man, and wouldn't ever say anything to knowingly upset anyone, so I had a discussion with Tim about what this phrase could mean. We concluded that John meant exactly what John said!

I don't tend to follow recipes exactly, but put my own twist on them. A different ingredient here or there can change the taste of a casserole completely. I then do variations on my variations and any semblance to the original recipe is no more. I am also the first the say that I don't do fiddly. Some of my friends spend a long time with desserts, getting them to look just right. I am happy if the taste is good.

Anyway, I am digressing...............

The cookery book is called Mad about Macarons by Jill Colonna. Jill, a native of Edinburgh, first came to live in France about 20 years ago and subsequently married and lives in France. In the book she writes that whilst she initially struggled with the language,  and to adjust to the culture, she set out to impress her husband's friends 'on a plate'.

Images taken from Jill's book
In her book she sets out to debunk the idea that macarons can only be made by the best patissiers, or even patissieres. The gerbet, or Parisian macaron, is a meringue based -confection (not to be confused with the coconut based macaroon). It was created in the 20th century by Pierre Desfontaines a cousin of Louis Laduree, the founder of Laduree . I visited one of their shops in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district in 2009.

Tim had meetings in Paris over the Spring break, so I had the days to myself to explore. The shop wasn't hard to find, but the macarons were very expensive. I bought a small box, and ate them for lunch.

Jill describes herself as a macaronivore, and that after tasting her first macaron, it was 'love at first bite'. She has convinced me that macarons are simple to make at home, all that is required is that I get the technique right!

Her style of writing is easy to read and her anecdotes are interesting. The photographs are superb, and  the recipes clear and 'step by step'. There are recipes for a wide variety of macarons including pistachio and dark chocolate, cranachan and evenThai green curry!

I thoroughly recommend this book as a good read, and plan to buy a couple more copies as presents for friends.

I am going to try out some of her recipes when I am next in France.

Watch this space...........

Monday, 7 February 2011

A change is as good as a rest.....

Every term we have a 'try something different' day. This means that pupils are allowed to choose from a list of activities that are not generally a part of our normal curriculum. Sometimes the activities are linked with a theme but not always.

The teachers and teaching assistants also have to research some different activities that they can offer on such occasions. Some activities last an hour, whereas others can last for the whole day.

Over the past couple of years I have had some really great days. On one such day I took a group of able, talented and interested pupils to Keele University to study Forensic Science. We had a wonderful time working with hair and fingerprints using techniques and microscopes the like of which we can only dream about in school.

Another day we built giant rollercoasters using Knex and then investigated frictional forces.

One of the best days was when, together with three colleagues, we took over the food room and made jam, soup and chutney. The challenge was that following our harvest festival we were to use up a lot of the fresh produce. The fruits of our labour would then be 'sold' at our school Autumn Fair.

When we looked at the mountain of apples which had been donated we realised that apple would be the basis of  EVERYTHING we made. Altogether we made about a hundred jars of blackcurrant and apple jam, spiced apple chutney, apple and green tomato chutney, apple and red onion chutney and apple and beetroot chutney. In fact any chutney providing it contained apple and there was even apple in the soup!

The pupils were excellent at peeling and chopping. At one time I was surrounded by  pupils chopping onions and wearing science goggles - I wish my camera had been to hand. Some pupils were weighing out the ingredients and others in charge of sterilising the jars, designing the labels and cutting out fabric covers.

We all had a fantastic time doing something different and useful. We could have sold two or three times the quantity we made.

I hope we get to do this again next year, perhaps with a different group of pupils. I came home from work  stinking of boiled vinegar and thrilled with the experience. I  even bought myself a book of preserves and chutneys which I can't wait to try out. In fact a very good friend, who is renowned for her chutneys, bought me exactly the same book for Christmas.  I will take one out to France, then there will be no stopping me.

Start saving jars ........!!

Saturday, 5 February 2011


 Dodgy skirting board man put in his place. I am normally very mild mannered but ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Image courtesy of Google Images

He has promised to collect the dodgy stuff early next week and drop off some more. However, I wouldn't put any money on the chances of this happening without further hassle!

Why do I always have to be right?

It turns out that I was was right to not be confident that Wales would win their Six Nations clash against England.

1978 a golden era for Welsh rugby. Where are they now!

If I had given it any thought, I'd also have been right about my English rugby playing (in his very much younger days and now coaching) friend Cobbo not being gracious in victory.

Allez les bleus, but not when you play Wales!
I'm off the Irish too, because yet another Aer Lingus dispute means that Tim will have to spend about 14 hours at Dublin airport on his way home from Boston. He was also caught up in a dispute on his way out. 
Note  to self: never fly via Dublin or with Aer Lingus!

Dodgy skirting board man due to come on Saturday morning: he of the 'my oak skirting board does not have knots' school of thought. Not holding breath, but will stay in until midday in the vain hope that he will honour just one of his many promises.

Then ...... I am heading for the shops, without daughter this time, so when Tim finally arrives home we might still be solvent!

P.S. I should make it clear, that unfortunately, the best team (on the night) did win!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Always hopeful.......

The day of the opening match of the 2011 Six nations Championship has arrived, and for once I am not feeling very confident of a Welsh win at the Millennium Stadium.

The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (Google images)

With Tim away I have been invited to supper with some English friends. I will be outnumbered 3:1 and quite probably be subjected to some good natured banter (both usual in our household), but at least the supper will be good. I wonder whether leek soup or cawl will be on the menu?

However although I'm not confident, I remain ever hopeful that the boys in red jerseys will prevail!

Still a day at work to enjoy first..................some lesson observations planned for today................Y8 out on a visit..................but covering an Art lesson.................roll on 7.45 and kick off!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

A lucky find or serendipity?

It was a Friday afternoon in the summer of 1982. My 'O' level and 'A' level classes had left school, so with some free time on my hands and taking some exam marking with me, I left school early. Walking through town with a friend, we saw a sign for a property auction and decided to have a nose about - as you do.

One of the properties caught my eye, an old Victorian school in a pretty village about four miles away. We had eaten at the village pub (meant to be the second oldest in England ) so I was interested to see who would buy the school and how much it would sell for. didn't reach its reserve.
So............later that evening we climbed over the gate for the first time to have a rekkie.

We liked what we saw, and being young, fairly headstrong but with secure jobs and no ties, what did we have to lose?

Within days we had our house on the market, had secured a second mortgage, borrowed some money from parents and put in a sealed bid offer. Luckily for us we had dared more than anyone else and the school was ours.

The school which had opened in 1858 rang the final bell in July 1981.

We had bought two classrooms, two cloakrooms, a tiny school kitchen and a large playground with an outside toilet in one corner. What we didn't have was any bathroom, hot water or heating. December 1982, for those of you with long memories, was another winter similar to this one. The snow, ice and freezing temperatures seemed to be never ending. In fact, I seem to remember shortly after moving in we went on a ski holiday to warm up!! 

We lived in a borrowed tiny 2 berth caravan, until we could set one of the cloakrooms up as a tiny bed -sitting room.

The adventure, that has lasted for the last 28 years, was only just beginning.........

Our next door neighbour!

Some of the previous inhabitants of our school.

I'll scan some of our original photographs to tell the story, and as Eamon Andrews would have said

" St James School, this is your life" .

Watch this space........