Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year….


However you choose to see in the new year, whether alone, in a small group or as part of a large gathering I wish you all health, peace and happiness for the coming year, 2014. We are going to a party at our next door neighbours, Gill and Rory. The trifle is setting, and the champagne chilling.

During 2014 there will be changes in my life which I am looking forward to, but with some trepidation. There will be challenges to face and adjustments to make, but all of them positive. I’ll be able to spend more time in France and also more time travelling. I want to enjoy the company of my friends and get to know them better. Of course there will also be people and places I’ll miss being a part of, but life moves on.

As usual, there will be the usual resolutions…

  • to eat less and exercise more.
  • to make every day count for something.
  • to not put off until tomorrow those things I really ought to do today.
  • to enjoy the company of family and friends.
  • to plan for tomorrow, but live for today.
  • to find new ways to ‘make a difference’.
  • to try out new recipes with a view to improving my baking skills. *Jean, you’d better get that club started!

Of course these resolutions aren’t all SMART (in target setting jargon) but SMART or not, they are mine! A SMART target would be to ‘try out one new baking recipe each week for the next year’, as it is SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, REALISTIC and TIMED.It would, however, probably negate the first resolution! 

My track record at even remembering, let alone sticking to resolutions isn’t great. Wish me luck…


Thursday, 26 December 2013

Snow at last, and other things…

Yesterday afternoon it started to sleet. By the time we were woken by the snow-plough at 7am this morning, about 10cm of snow had fallen,  and it is still snowing! However, for our holiday it might still be too little, too late.  There needs to be a build up of snow in order for the lifts to open. Yesterday we saw some brave (and fit) souls actually walking up the piste in order to ski back down. Unlike Tim, I am a fair weather skier and like perfect conditions and visibility. The upside is that we’ve saved about £100 a day as we haven’t needed lift passes!

We are in a residential area of Villars, high above the village,  with direct access to the ski piste.

IMG_2864_640x427 From the balcony towards the piste.

IMG_2878_640x427In front of the chalet.

I’m trying to persuade Tim to go for a walk in the snow in order to check out the conditions, and, more importantly, to walk off the indulgences of yesterday.

We enjoyed an ALDI Christmas dinner which I can thoroughly recommend for taste, quality and price.

IMG_0060 A ‘four bird roast’ ( turkey, chicken, duck and goose) with a cranberry and orange glaze…

IMG_0063 Followed by an orange topped Christmas pudding, laced with cider, rum, cognac and sherry. I’m not a big fan of Christmas pudding but this was wonderful…


IMG_0055Washed down by some Bah Humbug ale for Tim, and the delicious La Renaudie pink sparkles for me.

The Aldi mince pies came out best in a taste test, above ones from Fortnum and Mason costing five times more!

I hope you all enjoyed a delicious Christmas meal with family or friends.

Our day was made complete by a two hour conference call  with Rhiannon and Tom, via ‘Go Meeting’, where we opened our presents. Who’da thought it would be possible for a family to video link between the UK, Switzerland and the Japan?


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

It’s Christmas…

With our very
best wishes for a happy Christmas,
and a
healthy and peaceful 2014.

Our first ‘selfie’, even the snow!!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

An early Christmas present…

IMG_2670_640x427 2

This present means a great deal to me. These delicious cupcakes were made by O. O is one of my students who is unfortunately suffering from leukaemia. She is too ill during certain times in her treatment cycle to manage to get to school, but when she does she is invariably cheerful and always tries her very best.

IMG_2672_640x427 The cakes got slightly battered on their journey to the Alps, but they tasted superb.

I make sure that her book is up to date because she worries that she is falling behind. It pleases her that I stick in information sheets and fill in worksheets. I draw diagrams and get other pupils in the group to print off copies of their work for O.

Of course O has much bigger battles to fight but she found the time and the energy to make and wrap these wonderful cakes to thank me for teaching her. She wasn’t well enough to be in school on the last day, but Mum brought in the cakes. It is humbling that in the midst of the fight against this awful disease they are thinking of others.

Thank you O; I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas and a healthy 2014.

SNOW REPORT: No snow falls and a clear day, although with more cloud than yesterday. This afternoon the winds have picked up. The forecast is for some snow tomorrow…

Monday, 23 December 2013

Dreaming of a white Christmas…

We’ve arrived in Switzerland at the beautiful mountain village of Villars–sur-Ollon, to celebrate a white Christmas. The only things missing are our children, Rhiannon and Tom, and snow! Although much of the village is white, there isn’t enough of the cold, white stuff to open the many ski lifts and runs. However the compensation is that we have wonderful, blue skies and non-stop sunshine from dawn until dusk.

At the moment the lack of skiing isn’t bothering us too much as we are enjoying walking in the sunshine. On Christmas eve we plan a long walk up the mountain to make the most of the spectacular mountain views. As is the case in mountain villages every walk consists of walking uphill and then down, or if we go to the village from our apartment it’s a case of downhill and then up – we much prefer the former!!

We’ve had a very busy time with end of term activities, and preparing the Old School for Corsican friends of our neighbours to stay in over Christmas. This was a far bigger job than we’d imagined it would be. The best I can say is that we are well on the way to de-cluttering, but more about it in a future post.

Villars is a beautiful place. In fact five years ago we very nearly bought an apartment here.

Villars in the summer (2008)…




Villars in the winter…


IMG_2781 zoom

IMG_2782 zoom

Our apartment. We have two balconies facing south and to the mountains. On one you can just see some blue chair covers, and the other is down and to the right.


The apartment block even comes with it’s own nuclear bunker!


So, as we head towards Christmas eve the big question is…


Watch this space…

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A few days away...

We're having a few days away. Actually we've only travelled about four miles down the road to stay at Rhiannon's house to look after the dogs. Rhiannon and Stuart are renting a large house at South Stack, in sunny Anglesey, with their uni friends for their annual xmastravaganza. Take a look at what they are eating... The wonders of social media!

Needless to say our evening meal pales in comparison, although on Friday evening we met our friends John and Maureen for a meal at a local pub. The atmosphere, conversation, food and wine were very good. It does the heart good to catch up with friends of nearly 30 years. 

We've just come back from walking the dogs on Stafford Common. Bella, the delinquent beagle, has led Tim a merry chase. If you've not seen the YouTube video of Fenton and his owner just google 'Fenton, Richmond Park'. As you chuckle, think Tim and Bella, and you won't be far wrong!

The late afternoon sky was glorious. We didn't have a camera, but we took this photograph with Tim's phone.

Sunday  sees the start of Advent, which for me is early enough to start thinking about Christmas. We are meeting my brother and sister-in-law for a late lunch near Market Harborough, which is roughly half way between us and their home near Bury St Edmunds. We always meet to swap Christmas gifts and this was the only day when we were both free. 

As I type, Australia are 30-26 up against Wales which should make for an exciting last 10 minutes. My friend, Debbie, is at the Millennium Stadium soaking up the atmosphere. A Welsh win would complete her birthday celebrations, but alas, it wasn't to be.

Tom's Christmas parcels have arrived in Kagoshima. Besides gifts the parcel contained food treats, winter clothes and four pairs of shoes to fit his size 11 feet!

Ahead lies the last three weeks of term, with plenty of activities both work related and social to look forward to. Working part-time allows me the time to enjoy more of the good things in life. It also means that weekends are less frantic, although I'm still searching for all that time that working less was going to bring me! 

This post has taken nearly two days to put together so perhaps age + more time = less time...

Monday, 11 November 2013

Just testing...

Rhiannon found me the blogger app for my iPad so I thought I'd test out how the process works.
It seems fairly straight forward  and I can email photographs to myself to upload or take the photographs with the iPad camera.

Tom sent me this photograph, from Japan using LINE which works a bit like Skype, although I find that it is easier to use

He is in training for a biathlon, advertising Team Sky as he travels and doing his bit for the Anglo Japanese equivalent of the entente cordiale.

I can't work out how to resize the photograph.

Any ideas?

UPDATE: It seems I can alter the pic size and font (limited variety) by editing in blogger itself but not through the app. 

I wonder whether there is a windows live writer app...

Monday, 4 November 2013

“The time has come,” the Walrus said…


… to talk of many things.

Time is short so you’ll have to wait. I’ve allowed myself 20 minutes for this post while I drink my mid-morning cup of tea. Usually it would be Earl Grey, but this holiday I’ve discovered Lipton’s Lemon. I’ve bought a few boxes to take back to the UK. Anyway, I digress!

The highlight of this holiday was our annual curry evening. A large group of friends, old and new, gathered at Le Pre Vert. Delicious desserts were brought. We enjoyed a chestnut souffle cake with blueberries (Susan), sweet apple bahjies with pumpkin ice cream (Tim), Apple and blackberry crumble (Sally), chocolate gateau (Julie) and strawberry meringues (Elizabeth, who went far beyond the call of duty and covered her gorgeous black dress with meringue, cream and strawberries). She also cleaned my kitchen floor! 

We didn’t take photographs, but as it was Hallowe’en we did manage a photograph of Tim’s handiwork…


We thoroughly enjoyed catching up with the many friends we’ve made in France. As is the nature of these events we didn’t have much time to talk to our guests but do want to thank our friends for coming, some of whom live more than an hour away. There were some notable absentees, friends who were unable to come through illness or late changes to travel plans. Jean, next year we’ll have to coordinate our dates a bit better!

Getting back to what the Walrus said, the poem, with apologies to Lewis Carroll, should read “to pack up all our things.”

Today will be busy; too busy to line up the oysters and eat them one by one. We’ll be packing up, cleaning, loading the car and trailer, draining down the central heating system and bolting the shutters.

Even though it has been raining Tim has done final brush cut along the bief. Strong winds and rain overnight mean that the bief is almost in flood. It won’t be long before it covers the path.




27 minutes… Apologies for any mistakes. Editing takes time!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Lunch, Loches and Lansyer…

Our journey soon forgotten we’d decided on a leisurely Sunday morning watching the Indian Grand Prix. We were well aware of the clocks changing but were still sitting round in our dressing gowns at 11.30. We needed to be showered, dressed and at La Renaissance in St Hippolyte for 12.30 – about 25 minutes from Le Pré Vert. We made it by 12.34.

We’d arranged to meet for lunch in Loches but Le Gerbe d’Or was closed and Maureen came to the rescue by booking the alternative venue.  The meal  was good, tasty, hearty fayre although not haute cuisine. However, as we mostly chose from the 16.50 menu we didn’t expect it to be. The service was pleasant and attentive. We’d eat there again.


We’d been persuaded by Jim and Liz to visit Maison Lansyer in the afternoon. I first came across Lansyer in an excellent post by Susan of Days on the Claise, but hadn’t managed to visit the exhibition. If you would like to find out more about Lansyer you can read Susan’s interesting and informative post here.

We were very impressed by the detail and how he captured the light in his paintings.




I tried out the framing device but am not too sure about my chosen subject, although with a combined age of more than 180 years it is certainly in keeping with the surroundings!!

IMG_9935 Tim, John and Jim – paid up members of the OLS escape committee!!

**   Apologies for not using the crop tool to improve my photographs - the quality is such that I wouldn’t want anyone to think they were taken by Tim! The process is an absolute pain on my laptop!  **

Monday, 28 October 2013

Nous sommes arrivés (2)…

… at last. My timetable is much reduced; I only work on Monday (all day), and just the mornings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but it has been a long half term. Eight weeks. The students are tired and I am exhausted, although this is probably caused by a function of age and a desire to be elsewhere!


I’m fortunate to teach some absolutely lovely kids. I enjoy interaction with them and their parents and don’t find working stressful in the usual sense. I just find it exhausting. An early bird I try to be at school for as close to 7 as I can manage. The trade off is that I now leave as close to 12.30 as I can manage. However I can’t seem to summon up the energy to do all those things I’d planned to do in the afternoon.

Before you feel too sorry for me I am managing to walk, and to meet and enjoy the company of good friends for lunch on a regular basis. Tim is usually getting his lunch time sandwiches made for him and I’ve watched a few more episodes of Jonny and Jasmine looking for a ‘place in the sun’. But where is the redecoration of the front and back porches I’d planned to do? Why aren’t the wardrobes sorted and cleared? Why doesn’t my garden look ready for winter? Why hasn’t Percy (Tom’s car which is laid up for the duration) been cleaned and covered to protect it from some of the ravages of time? I could go on…


Even thinking about these things makes me tired! The journey out to France, once looked forward to with anticipation, even when we were driving to the Alps, has now become a grind. This time, taking the advice of various friends, we left home at 3am to avoid the traffic jams. We avoided the traffic jams, but encountered closures and diversions. The M6 was closed at J13-12 and then at J6-7, the M25 clockwise had a section closed and then to cap it all the M20 was closed at J1-3. Luckily for us we travelled around the M25 anti-clockwise and this meant we avoided the M20 closure. For once there was only a short delay on the shuttle.

We were towing a trailer so our speed was reduced and our fuel economy almost halved. To cap it all our telepeage transponder stopped working!

No photographs of the journey but by the time we’d unloaded, topped up our energy levels with some tea and cake we were ready to walk the range and enjoy a glorious sunset. With the sunshine on the clouds you could almost think they were mountains in the Alps or the Dolomites. Don’t tell Tim I said this but the photographs fail to do the actual sky justice. It does, however, make one marvel at the workings of the human eye!

Home to hot soup and a quiet evening in front of the box, watching Strictly and X-Factor. Sunday lunch with friends at La Renaissance in St Hippolyte, with our first visit to the Lansyer Museum in Loches – more about this tomorrow.

Home from home and my cup runneth over…

Friday, 18 October 2013

Just desserts - Q.E.D…

I first wrote this post – or at least a similar one – about a month ago, but before I could publish it disappeared into the ether. When this sort of thing happens I tend to get a bit discouraged and lose heart… which I did, and am then reluctant to do it again… which I was! Anyway, today I was looking for a tasty pudding and remembered this.

The gist of my previous blog had been to discuss how sometimes adapting recipes can cause problems. In this case the problems weren’t necessarily with taste but with appearance, although taking a look at the cookery book again I notice that the one in the book didn’t look much better!


In May we were at Le Pre Vert and friends were coming for lunch. I’d decided on a James Martin inspired croissant and butter pudding. The recipe suggested white chocolate but I had a fancy to use very dark chocolate and spiced orange. Actually this was what I had in my store cupboard!

As usual, I also took some short cuts with the recipe so this is my version.

To serve 6 people you will need:

  • 500 ml milk
  • 500 ml double cream – brought from the UK in my travel fridge.
  • 3 whole eggs and 6 egg yolks.
  • 200g caster sugar.
  • 6 large croissants.
  • 25g butter.
  • 175g dark chocolate
  • 75ml cointreau
  • A few teaspoons of marmalade – I used some delicious homemade seville marmalade, given to me by a friend.
  • 1tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod.

To make:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C or gas mark 4
  • Whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, vanilla extract and sugar gently. The original recipe suggested heating the milk, cream and vanilla pod to gradually bring to the boil and after removing from the heat to add the eggs, sugar and the white chocolate. As I was using dark chocolate I didn’t want a ‘mud coloured mix’ so didn’t heat my mixture. It also adds to the washing up!
  • Add the cointreau.
  • Slice the croissants and place into a greased oven-proof dish.


  • Slice the butter into thin slivers and sprinkle over the croissants.


  • Place this in the oven for about 4 minutes to melt the butter. You could of course melt the butter and pour this over the croissants, but this adds to the washing up… again!
  • Spoon the marmalade over the croissants.



  • Sprinkle the pieces of chocolate over the top.


  • Pour over the creamy mixture and bake for about 25 minutes until almost set, but still a little gloopy.
  • Serve with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream. Custard could also be added but I thought this might make the dessert a bit too rich.

My pudding didn’t need the suggested blowtorch treatment to ‘finish it off’, The oven did the job for me! However the melted dark chocolate made the top a bit darker than it might have been. Next time I'd poke the chocolate into the croissants to prevent any bitterness that might come from the chocolate burning rather than just melting.

The taste panel…


I rarely follow a recipe fully – sometimes to my downfall, but this tasted fine.

At school I remember having to prove theorems and we’d always write Q.E.D at the end, an abbreviation of the Latin ‘quod erat demonstrandum’. This shows just how good our Latin was, we thought it stood for ‘quite easily demonstrated’. Now I know better!



Tuesday, 8 October 2013

57 reasons…

to have a great day.

It’s my birthday.

It’s my birthday.

It’s my birthday.

It’s still my birthday AND it’s my day off!!

Google tells me that my day is shared with William Swainson (1789), Juan Peron (1895), Dr Christiaan Barnard (1922), Ray Reardon (1932 – and born in the same town), Rev. Jesse Jackson (1941) and my friend Janet (1960).


Thank you for the cards, presents and good wishes. I shall be enjoying a walk over the very beautiful Cannock Chase followed by lunch with friends, hoping that the rain stops.

My birthday music choice would be this...

Have a good day!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Someone’s been busy…

… and I’d like to say it was me. However, this wonderful sweater is the handiwork of Elisabeth Thomsen.

At the beginning of 2012 I published a post about knitting A PROJECT (click to read), as a result of which I was contacted by Elisabeth, who lives in Denmark, for a copy of the pattern. Another reader wanted a copy but unfortunately an email blip meant that I lost the contact details.

Last week Elisabeth emailed a photograph of her friend wearing the finished Aran sweater.


I love the rich colour; in a longer length it looks more contemporary, in line with current fashion. Well done, Elisabeth!

Where’s my knitting bag…

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Happy Birthday, Tom…

My little (read giant) son is 23 today!

His birthday gifts have arrived in Kagoshima courtesy of FedEx. Nothing very exciting, although with his new bike – being specially constructed in giant size (compared to Japanese proportions) and cycling jersey he will be giving Sir Bradley Wiggins a run for his money. Assuming he can get the cycling shoes and a cycle helmet to fit!


If it has managed to pass through customs un-confiscated (is this a word?) he can expect a cake and some other goodies including his favourite shower gel and shampoo – I had 8kg to fill so filled it to within 49g! His little car will probably be the only one on his island with an Aston Villa car sticker and water bottle filled with wine gums!.

He is loving his time in Japan and working hard although the heat and humidity in his region is hard to get used to. He’s made friends and the people in his village have been very kind and generous.

He’s changed a bit over the years but still likes to pose. This photograph is one of our favourite ones of Rhiannon and Tom together. They were putting on a dance show around 20 years ago. The quality isn’t brilliant as this is an image photographed with an iphone. Rhiannon is wearing one of my old dresses and Tom is wearing one of Rhiannon’s ballet outfits. I love the red wellies!




Anyway, click on the link below….


Sunday, 15 September 2013

The case of the disappearing post and the autumn chutney…

I wrote the post; I inserted the photographs; I even played around with the layout in Windows Live Writer. However, my downfall was that I didn’t publish immediately because I wanted to use my portable hard drive to check whether I’d already word processed the recipe – which I hadn’t.


I got sidetracked and decided to make some ‘autumn’ chutney. As sure as night follows day my computer decided to shut down and took with it the unsaved post of my version of croissant and butter pudding. It will teach me in future to save into draft form – something I am constantly advising the kids at school to do and am totally unsympathetic when they lose their work!

To cap it all I think my chutney could possibly have ‘caught’. I couldn’t detect any burnt taste, but the base of the pan sure shows the signs. This is AFTER an overnight soak…


A few of the eleven jars of, as yet unlabelled, autumn chutney.


Today my tech support is at Oakham school in Rutland teaching some of the brightest kids from all over the UK. The Arkwright Scholarships Trust identifies, inspires and nurtures talent in engineering and related areas of design. Students are supported by a diverse group of commercial companies, trade associations, universities, professional institutions, charitable trusts, armed services and personal donors. Their aim is to further the very best engineering talent and to improve the life chances of high-potential school students, whatever their educational background.

P.S. Not a word to Tim. It’s better he think that any ‘burnt’ taste that develops is due to my secret ingredient… red grapefruit.

P.P.S Autumn chutney is so named because it contains just about everything from my fruit bowl, vegetable rack and store cupboard that needed to be used up!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The calm before the storm…

I’m back at school after the long summer break. I’d like to write that the break wasn’t quite long enough, but I’d probably run the risk of offending readers who aren’t ‘lucky’ enough to be teachers!! ;o))

I’d thought the summer would bring with it more time to blog. In fact the opposite happened, but we have built up a stock of photographs which tell the tale of our summer.

Here goes…




These photographs were taken as we walked Maisie and Lucy along the Trent and Mersey canal at about 6.20am. About half a mile further on we came across this..


A flock of sheep had found their way onto the main railway line. Unusually we didn’t have a mobile with us, so we had to hurry home to telephone the police to inform them. Large intercity trains run along this line and we were very concerned that there might be an accident.

Fortunately there wasn’t, due in part to the fact that fewer trains run that early in the morning.