Friday, December 06, 2019

Frosty web

Ice crystals formed on spider webs on Thursday morning as our low temperature went below -1ºC. The sun came out and melted the frost by mid-morning. We're expecting the same today, but with more of a warm-up as a new weather system moves in.

They look like water droplets, but they're actually frozen.

It's nice to walk the dog on frosty mornings because she stays clean. The mud is frozen enough not to get all over her feet and fur. One of the nice things about winter. The freezing also checks the population of bugs, or so I'm told. The bird feeders are filled and the usual suspects are enjoying them. Rouge-gorges, (robins), mésanges (tits), and pinsons (chaffinches) are the most common visitors to the feeders and the suet balls. We also see some chardonnerets (European goldfinches) and merles (blackbirds) from time to time.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Barenaked maples

It's official. All the leaves have fallen from the twin red maples out front. If you read Ken's blog, you will know that we finally got it together to rake them up on Wednesday. They had dried out enough to move and, now, most of them are out in the vegetable garden plot. Last year we raked up the leaves on November 24, so we're not too far behind. It's just been so wet.

Some birches around the 'hood are still golden, and the hedge around our yard will stay green through winter. But the maples are bare.

Today my plan is to put the holiday lights up on the house. We're expecting another day or two of dry sunny weather, so it's time. On Friday morning, I plan to go on a quest. This time of year we usually make coques (cockles) with linguini to help break up the heavy holiday meals of lamb and poultry. But, the fish monger at the Saturday market in Saint-Aignan where I could get them quit the market earlier this year. I'm going to drive over to the Friday market in a nearby town to see what their fish mongers have. Hopefully, I'll come back with some coques or maybe some little clams.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019


These are two of the three remaining fir trees in our yard. The healthy one on the right is very tall; we can see it from across the river, marking the location of our house on the southern bank. The tree on the left is dying. The lower third is nearly devoid of needles and the upper branches have many fewer than they used to.

The tree looks bare all year round. A few of its silver-blue needles survive, but not for long.

So, the jig is up. The guy who does our hedges and removed our apple trees is coming this winter to remove this big fir tree. It's too close to the house and is wedged between the other fir and the linden. Removing it will open up the northwest corner of the house to light and air, improving views and getting rid of the dead needles that constantly drop on the roof and in the gutter.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The birches hold on

The birch trees in our hamlet are the last to be losing their leaves this fall. They're still providing us some nice color, but not for much longer. The days are getting chilly (Monday's high was about 5ºC or 41ºF); the sun is too low in the sky this time of year to warm things up much. Still, it's nice to see the sun after that long run of overcast and rain.

The view of our neighbors' property from the deck on a sunny December afternoon.

I'm thinking I'll take advantage of the dry weather to get the holiday lights up on the house this week. The tree won't go up until the 15th or so.

Monday, December 02, 2019


According to the forecast, the week ahead will be dry, but cold. We'll be flirting with freezing temperatures and will surely see some frost in the mornings. I'm looking forward to the ground drying out a little. We still have leaves to get up and the vegetable garden plot to cover for the winter.

Frost on an oak leaf.

Over the weekend we got the more sensitive plants moved from the deck into the house and greenhouse. The garden hoses are rolled up and put away as are the backyard table and chairs. It's beginning to look a lot like winter. Without snow.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Corn muffins

I had a hankerin' for corn muffins the other day, so I looked up recipes on line. I found one called "Extra-Corny Cornbread Muffins" on the Bon Appetit web site. It attracted me because it included whole corn kernels in the muffins and that's what I wanted. So I gave it try on Saturday.

Corn muffins cooling in the oven.

The recipe wasn't difficult and the batter, while thick, spooned easily into the muffin tin. My muffins look a little rougher than those in the recipe's illustration. But isn't that always the way it goes? The important part is that they taste pretty good. Craving satisfied.

And on the rack. Some of the kernels slid off the tops onto the table. I ate them.

Of course, I substituted canned corn for the fresh-off-the-cob corn called for in the recipe. I also used a mixture of plain yogurt and crème fraîche to replace the sour cream. They're not too sweet, so they'd go well with a savory, spicy dish, or just by themselves with a little butter.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The cheese course

I set out three cheeses for the Thanksgiving meal. The tall one is called Petit Basque, from the southwest (Basque country), made from ewes' milk. The white one is called pont-l'évêque, from Normandy, made from cows' milk. The small one is called cantal, from the Auvergne region of the central mountains, also made from cows' milk.

Cheeses don't have to be whole and untouched to serve, even to guests. The wine is a local sauvignon (I took the photos before we ate), but we drank Beaujolais with the cheese course.

To add a little holiday flair, we ate "fresh" figs along with the cheese. These are figs from a local friend's tree, trimmed and frozen whole by me back in September. I let four of them thaw at room temperature and they tasted almost as if they were fresh off the tree.

Four frosty figs to eat with cheese. They still had some thawing to do when I took the picture.

We're now enjoying leftovers for a few days. We ate cold lamb, steamed potatoes, and broccoli with mayonnaise on Friday and Ken's planning to make a lamb curry for Sunday lunch. Over the next few days, we'll do something with the leftover beans.