Saturday, December 31, 2022

Weather watcher

On rainy days, Tasha doesn't get to go outside much. Just two short walks and a couple of quick sorties during the day. She does have a good view to the outdoors from this spot at the deck doors. From there she can see people and cars going by and birds visiting the feeders out front. Barking is involved.

The deck is slick with rain and, while you can't see it, the wind is gusting mightily. Taken with the Pixel 6.

This is the last day for the holiday tree this season. It all gets put away tomorrow. Tasha's brushed by it a little too closely a time or two, but with no damage. Bert is not interested in the least. Thank goodness.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Sail away

I don't remember where Ken found this ceramic dish, but he liked the colors and bought it. We've had it since before we moved to France, so it might have come from a store/boutique in or around San Francisco. I suppose I should ask him. [Asking...] He doesn't remember exactly where, but it was in California. On the underside of the dish is written "Italy." No help.

Candy dish? Ash tray? High school art project? I dunno. Taken with the Pixel 6.

We're expecting light rain most of the day today. I had one outdoor project in my head: getting some kindling from a pile out in the yard into a sheltered place to dry out. I can probably do it in light rain. I'll see.

Today's lunch plan is for an Asian style stir-fry with leftover turkey and some snow peas. Potstickers will be involved. Saturday's NYE meal will be shellfish in the French tradition and Sunday's NYD meal will be built around black-eyed peas in the southern American tradition.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Painting the house

In French, un(e) peintre is someone who paints. Like buildings, walls, fences, rooms, stuff like that. Someone who paints art is called un(e) artiste peintre. That's what my friend L. is. She painted this portrait of our house back in 2018. She's never been here, though. She painted it entirely from photos that I posted on the blog. Such talent!

Our house. The painting hangs in our guest room. Taken with the Pixel 6.

The wind gusted a lot over night and it's expected to get a little stronger as we move into the weekend. Yuck. I'm planning to go to the market on Saturday to pick up some things for our NYE meal of shellfish. We used to have oysters, but we're kind of off them these days. Gambas (prawns), coquilles St-Jaques (scallops), and maybe a langouste (spiny lobster) or langoustines (scampi, Norway lobsters, or Dublin Bay prawns) may show up on our plates.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Late December sunrise

This was yesterday's sunrise as seen from our deck. There was a lot of fog nestled in the low places around us. I noticed on one of the weather sites I look at that we are gaining one minute of daylight today. Yippee!

The countdown to springtime has begun! Taken with the Pixel 6.

While I was out yesterday, I saw that one of the telephone poles that bring the wires up the hill to our hamlet is on the ground. The wires are pinned beneath it. We've noticed no interruption in phone/DSL service, though. I imagine the mayor, who lives around the corner from us, has contacted the appropriate people to get it fixed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Nothing going on

We're in that lull between Christmas and New Year's. Not much is happening. Especially photography. So here is an old favorite. It's a café in the Paris neighborhood where I lived back in 1981. The photo is from some time in the early 1990s. November, probably, given the Beaujolais Nouveau signs in the window.

It must have been early in the morning. No customers yet. Digitized color slide, early 1990s.

I do have some errands to run this week. Post office, recycling, etc. And I need a haircut. I think we're Ken's making turkey soup for lunch today. The broth was made on Sunday, so it's just a matter of adding diced turkey and some vegetables. Should be good. The temperature is falling again, so I'll likely build a fire in the wood stove (I skipped yesterday) a little later.

I'm behind in responding to your comments, but I do enjoy and appreciate them. I'll be back in the swing again soon!

Monday, December 26, 2022

The morning after

Another year gone by. Well, almost. One week to go. The Brits call today "Boxing Day." You can imagine all the visions that conjures in my head. None of them are of sugar plums. As far as I'm concerned, the day after Christmas should be called "Leftovers Day." Our Christmas Day dinner was a success. It was a lot of work, especially for chief cook and bottle washer Ken. And I helped (Americans of a certain age might remember that line from a tv advert). As we sat down to eat, Ken declared that it was easier than he expected. Here's his post about the meal.

Big chunks of ham in a parsley-studded gelatin. Taken with the Pixel 6.

For our appetizer, we had some jambon persillé from a local charcutier a few towns up river. He's a fixture at Saint-Aignan's Saturday market and has a good reputation around here. The ham was accompanied with crusty bread and sweet/sour pickles. A treat! I'm looking foward to leftovers.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Happy Holidays to all!

Santa takes a breather. Taken with the Pixel 6.

And to all a good night!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

You want fries with that?

Here is the plate of frites (French fries) we had with Wednesday's steak au poivre lunch. We like to buy frozen fries. There's nothing in them except potatoes and vegetable (either canola or sunflower) oil. We have a home fryer and use peanut oil as the frying medium. The fries come out close to perfect every time: crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. And, yes, I always put black pepper on my fries.

Perfect fries every time. Taken with the Pixel 6.

We've made home-made fries from fresh potatoes many times over the years, but I rarely get them to turn out as good as the frozen ones. Ken has a theory that the companies that make fries for restaurants and supermarkets buy up all the best potatoes and that the spuds that we find just don't make the best fries. Plausible. We've tried many varieties of potato (there are a lot) and many methods for cooking them and rarely have we come up with a crispy home-made fry.

Every now and then I think of getting an air fryer, but I haven't gone there yet. As for oven-fries, they tend to have additives like sugar (for browning) and I don't want that. So for now we'll stick with what we know and enjoy.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Steak au poivre

I'm not sure how appetizing this photo is. I can tell you that the steak was delicious, perfectly rare inside, and that the sauce was equally as good. We used a piece of faux filet (called sirloin in the USA). It was quite big and we knew that there would be leftovers. First, the steak is covered in freshly ground black peppercorns and left to "marinate" for a while before cooking. I used a mortar and pestle for a coarse grind.

The steak weighed 675 grams (about 1.5 lbs.) before cooking. We ate half on Wednesday and finished the rest for lunch on Thursday.
Taken with the Pixel 6.

When it's time, the steak is seared on both sides and cooked to "rare." While the steak rests out of the sauté pan, the pan is de-glazed with cognac, armagnac, or another similar brandy. We used calvados, an apple brandy from Normandy. Cream gets mixed in at this point. We poured the sauce over the steak in its serving dish and set it in a warming oven while the fries cooked. It could also go right back into the sauté pan with the sauce and kept warm over low heat.

We cut the steak at the table and spooned additional sauce over it and on the fries. It's a rather rich dish, with a little heat from the peppercorns. Pre-ground pepper wouldn't be as good, IMHO. This dish can also be made from rumsteak (top round) or tournedos style, cut from the filet (what we call "filet mignon" or tenderloin in the USA), depending on what you like and how much you're willing to spend.

Thursday, December 22, 2022


Another birthday has come and gone. I started this one out like I have for many years: with a bottle of bubbly. This time a Champagne, courtesy of friends Peter and Jill from California who offered us this bottle when they visited last summer.

Champagne. Taken with the Pixel 6.

Our appetizer was escargots (snails in garlic and parsley butter). Those are the snail dishes next to the bottle. Each little cup gets a snail that gets topped with the butter mixture. Then they go into a moderate oven until the butter sauce is bubbling. They were delicious. We haven't had snails in quite a while.

The rest of the meal was our standard steak au poivre (pepper steak) in a calvados cream sauce served with French fries. Ken and I have been making this classic bistro dish on my birthday for forty years now. It never gets old. The tradition started in a restaurant in the south of France in 1981. The next year, when I told Ken how much I enjoyed that dish, he said, "I can make that!" And he's been doing it ever since.

I took a couple of photos of the steak in the pan, but I'm not happy with their quality. I'll see if I can clean them up a little, but I'm not optimistic.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Chez nous

Shortly after we moved into this house, the woman who sold it to us moved from her apartment in Saint-Aignan to another in Tours. She offered us this aerial photo of the house that was taken long before we arrived. I think it was taken sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. My, how the trees have grown since then. And look at how small the hedges are!

It would be cool to see the house from the same angle today. Anybody got a drone? Photo of a photo, taken with the Pixel 6.

The vigne vierge (Virginia creeper) was all gone when we first saw the house, but remnants remain. It's hard to see in this image, but the original owner of the house is standing on the deck looking up at the camera. He and his first wife built the house as a vacation home in the mid-1960s. She died in a car accident shortly after and he remarried. His second wife held on to the house for a while after he died, but I don't think she really liked it much. Plus, she probably wanted the proceeds to help finance her new apartment in Tours, so she put the house on the market. She had one prospective buyer, but his financing fell through. That's when we came along.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Oh, deer

Reindeer, that is. I thought these two looked nice together, like an adult and a fawn, although not many fawns have antlers. I left the silver buck in the box this year. The third figure in the background is a dog, not a deer.

This is all the mantle space our fireplace has. Taken with the Pixel 6.

The weather really warmed up yesterday. A chill remained in the air, however, so I had a fire going most of the day. But this morning we woke up to over 9ºC and it should get warmer as the day goes on. And we're expecting rain this afternoon and evening.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Frosty day

Sunday was a frosty one. It was about -5ºC at sunrise. We never got above zero. Today, however, is the polar (pun intended) opposite. We're at +5ºC this morning, with the high expected to soar to 13ºC, about 55ºF. They say we'll have a few "warm" days before things get back to winter.

Frosty day in the 'hood. Taken with the Pixel 6.

As most of you probably already know, France lost the World Cup final to Argentina yesterday. You win some, you lose some. We didn't watch, but Ken saw the result online.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Wintry blast from the past

I think this was taken in spring 1988 by our friend Sue. She, her daughter, her cousin (and our friend), her cousin's husband, and Ken and me went up to Yosemite for a night or two. We rented cabins toward the western end of the valley. The first night, a mid-April storm unexpectedly (at least to us) brought snow. A lot of it. There was not much to do the following morning except to walk around and take in the beauty.

L to R: Sue's daughter Rachel, me, Ken. April 1988. No hats; we weren't prepared for snow. Digitzed color photograph by Sue.

Sue and I, the two photographers in the group (at that time), ventured out at first light to ooh and ahh and snap wintry pictures. Later, as the roads and paths got cleared and the snow started to melt, we all went out for a walk from the cabins over to the Ahwahnee hotel and back. Our friend Cheryl tried to be a good sport, but she really did not like the cold and snow.

We all planned to have dinner in a big cafeteria-style place where the cabins were and watch the Academy Awards on the television in the dining room. Our friend Cheryl was really looking forward to that. However, the snowstorm blocked the signal. No awards show. Cheryl was not a happy camper, as it were.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Le sapin

Here's this year's sapin de noël (Christmas tree, sapin means fir). It doesn't look much different from previous years' trees since we got the real-fake-Swedish tree from you-know-where. That was ten years ago already. I think I put fewer ornaments on this year.

Yes, that's a table cloth as tree skirt. Taken with the Pixel 6.

I am within my self-imposed limits for holiday decoration. The tree doesn't go up before December 15th, and it will come down on New Year's Day. I started the "tradition" of taking the tree down on NYD back when I was still working and wanted to have the decorations (including outdoor lights) down before going back to the office.

A wider view. Taken with the Pixel 6.

This year I didn't hang lights outside. The government is asking people to cut back on electricity use. They say that a larger than usual number of the nation's power plants are down for upgrades and/or repairs and there may be shortages this winter. Bad planning, I guess. Most of our lights are LEDs these days, so they consume much less electricity already. We also run the dishwasher, clothes washer, and hot water heater overnight when power demand is low. Still, every little bit helps.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Curious doings

Just before lunch yesterday, these two trucks showed up across the road. They used a big auger attached to a crane on the bigger truck to drill a hole in the ground next to the existing utility pole. Then, again with the crane, they planted a new utility pole in the hole. When it was done, they moved out to the end of the road and did it again.

The new pole is shorter that the one it's planted next to. Taken with the Pixel 6.

I'm curious as to what these poles are for. We know that the communications folks are working on installing fiber optic cable in our area, including our neighborhood (yay!). This likely has something to do with that. But what? There was already a guy here last week that added new cables and what I assume are switching or connection boxes on the existing poles.

The second pole being lifted into place. Taken with the Pixel 6.

If these are replacement poles, why was something new added to the poles to be replaced? If they're not replacement poles, are they some kind of temporary pole? And for what? Our existing phone lines (and now the fiber line) come up from down the hill along our road. Up here in our hamlet, they share the poles with our power lines. You might recall that the power line that serves our hamlet was put underground some years ago. However, the lines that connect each house to the transformer are still up on poles and in use.

So, what gives? We'll have to wait and see. We're excited about the arrival of fiber in the 'hood. It's been talked about for a decade or more and now it's finally happening.

Thursday, December 15, 2022


Some years ago, I propagated a hydrangea by rooting cuttings I took from the plant that had been here since before we bought the house. When they were ready, I planted them against the wall on the eastern side just next to the driveway, three on either side of the garage door. Since then, three of the plants have died, but the ones between the garage and the front entry are still doing well. I took this photo a few weeks ago when there was still come color in the flower heads. Now they're all brown and soon I will trim them back.

Hydrangea. Taken with the Canon 6D.

This morning I'm heading out to the grocery store for a few things. I'm hopeful that I'm still ahead of the holiday rush. We'll see. And today's the day I will drag the (real fake) tree out of storage and set it up in the living room. There is no guarantee that it will get decorated today, but at least it will be ready.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022


This morning we woke up to a temperature above freezing. There's been some light rain but no snow. This morning's walk with Tasha will be damp.

These aren't raindrops, but dew drops from a couple of weeks ago. Taken with the Canon 6D.

But of course, the weather people are forecasting below freezing temps again by the weekend. Clear skies mean no snow, but they also mean very cold nights. The car inspection is this morning and we have some shopping to do before the weekend. It looks like driving will not be a problem.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Wash, rinse, repeat

It's too cold (for me) to do much of anything outdoors. Chopping wood and lugging it indoors is about it. And indoors, after getting Tasha and Bert their breakfast, I'm not motivated to do much except mess with photos and do a blog post, read the news and some other blogs, and deal with the daily fire. I empty the ashes and sweep up the mess, then build a new fire and get it going and sweep up again after that. The fire has to be tended through the day or it will go out. I take Tasha out for her morning or evening walk, depending on the day, not to mention her 10h30 outing to pee, after which both animules get treats, followed eventually by Tasha's lunch. Dishes get done and our lunch gets made, but Ken does most of that.

I'm sure these leaves have fallen by now. Taken with the Canon 6D.

I balanced the checkbook last week. On Thursday, I made an apple pie. I went to the market on Saturday. I took out the trash yesterday. Soon, the recycling will have to be taken to the recycle bins down the road. I washed the bathroom floor the other day. There's always some cleaning chore to be done somewhere. As with yard work, housework is subject to the "one thing a day" rule (if you do at least one thing a day, you've done enough). Tomorrow we're taking the Citroën in for its biennial inspection. I will follow Ken over in the Peugeot so he doesn't have to wait at the garage. Then we'll go pick it up when it's done. Tasha will enjoy the ride in the car.

Retirement is 24/7. Is it time for my nap?

Monday, December 12, 2022

Frosty sunrise

Sunday morning was cold and we saw a lot of frost once the sun came up. This was the view off the deck just after sunrise. As usual, the weather gurus are dialing back the idea of a messy week with ice and snow, at least in our region. Some rain is predicted for Wednesday with a possibility of it changing to light snow in wee hours when the temperature falls. We shall see.

Sunday's sunrise in the southeast. The driveway leaves are still not cleaned up. Don't judge.
Taken with the new phone camera.

If winter stays cold, we will likely run out of firewood before it's over. I'm surprised at how much we've burned over the last few weeks. I'm still waiting for the hedge guys to show up. We communicated a month or so ago, so I know we're on their schedule.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Still messin'

I'm still playing around with the new phone's camera, trying to get a feel for how it works. I find myself pushing the wrong buttons at the wrong time and I have a lot of unusable shots. Unless you want to see my feet and the floor. I haven't even tried to take it outdoors yet. And I still haven't chosen a phone plan. All in good time. Here are some photos of yet another apple tart.

A blind-baked crust, home-made applesauce, a few fresh apples, and some apricot jam for glaze.

Saturday's trip to the market in Saint-Aignan was a success. I was there early enough that there was virtually no waiting and ordering the holiday turkey was easy. We're set to pick up the bird on Christmas Eve. And the fish monger had coques (cockles) this week. They were big (as cockles go) and beautiful and we had another lunch of linguini with white clam sauce. It's a nice tradition for a change of meal or two between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The finished tart, ready to serve.

We're down below freezing again this morning. Our outdoor thermometer read -4.1ºC (about 25ºF) when I got up. The grass is frosty (from what I can tell -- it's still dark). The weather wizards see continuing cold and precipitation in the forecast for the coming week. All the ingredients for a "wintry mix." Ho, ho, ho!

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Funky feline fotos: Cat napping

Look closely. There's a cat stretched out on the log carrier. Bert likes to sleep near the fire. Sometimes, if there are no logs in the way, he gets into the fireplace and lies down next to the hot stove. When he does that, however, it's not for very long.

Bert blends in with the decor. The fireplace is always a mess this time of year.

It's cold outside, a couple of degrees below zero this morning. The central heating does a good job of keeping us warm as the day begins. Then I build a fire in the wood stove. The central heating goes off after a while and the living/dining room stays comfortably warm. The other rooms in the house cool off, but that's okay with us.

Friday, December 09, 2022

Get smart

I've taken a giant leap into the twenty-first century and am now equipped with a Google Pixel 6 smart phone. The past couple of days have been taken up with getting it set up (not done yet) and learning how to use it. I have yet to buy a phone plan (working on it), but I can do everything else with our wifi internet connection in the house.

Tasha takes a break from watching birds at the feeder to pose for a picture.

One of the selling points for me was the phone's camera. I read many reviews touting the Pixel 6's camera. So here's one of the first photos I took with the phone. Of course, it's Tasha.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Quick post

My desktop computer's fan is acting up. I think I need to open the thing up and give it a good clean, overdue at best. That'll take me a while and I want to get it done before the day gets going and I forget it (again). So, I'll be offline for a while. Meanwhile, enjoy the leaves.

Maple leaves on the ground.

By the way, we're down to about one degree above freezing at the moment. And it's my morning to take Tasha out. Bundle up!

Wednesday, December 07, 2022


I don't remember seeing many catkins this time of year. The usually come out in late winter, as far as I know. But, here are some.

Catkins. I don't remember what kind of tree this is.

The almost full moon was shining in through the north window when I woke up this morning. The temperature is just under 3ºC. I'm seeing predictions of -3ºC for the weekend. Brrr! Today we plan to enjoy a warming meal of sauerkraut with smoked meats. Yum!

Tuesday, December 06, 2022


Tree bark, that is. I think this is a conifer in the woods over by the Artsy Organized Neighbor's road to nowhere. I like the patterns.

The green stuff are lichens.

Not much is happening around here right now. We're making trips to the store, the post office, and wineries. And making lunch. You know, the basics. I'll head over to the market on Saturday to see if they're taking orders for turkeys. I'm doing the daily chore of emptying ashes from the wood stove, splitting wood, and building the daily fire. It's getting colder each day this week, with highs in the mid-to-low single digits (celsius). It's my turn to walk Tasha this morning. She gets impatient waiting for me to put on the cold weather gear (long johns, scarf, hat, gloves, coat, and hiking boots). She's always ready.

Monday, December 05, 2022

I couldn't resist

Just one more photo of golden leaves. Yesterday's photo was out the den window, looking northwest over a portion of the west forty. This one looks over the northeast corner of the north forty. The bare tree on the right is an ornamental cherry; it dropped all its leaves several weeks ago.

Looking northeast from the deck. I don't rake up leaves that fall in the yard.

One of the weather sites that I look at each day is predicting our first below-zero temperatures later this week. No precipitation is expected. One of us will have to go out to the Saturday market to place an order for a Christmas turkey. We've decided on turkey this year, if they're available. Bird flu has reduced the poultry supply across the country, so it's probably better to go earlier rather than later.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Fall's last stand

Golden and yellow leaves are falling fast from the poplars and other trees around the area in what is likely to be the last of the autumn color show. This was the view out of the den window just a few days ago. Our maple trees out front are completely bare now as are the grape vines out back. It won't be long before the poplars are, too.

Golden leaves carpet the spot along our fence where dead hazelnut trees were removed.

Today is Sunday, so it's a hunt day. With the still diminishing daylight hours, we have to be careful to get back home before the hunters arrive at 09h00. The sun rises this morning at 08h24. Yesterday I noticed some interesting activity out in the vineyard: two men released a pair of pheasants. They had more in the back of their vehicle, presumably to release them in other spots farther out.

We've been told over the years that pheasants are farm-raised and released into the wild for hunting season. We've seen a pheasant farm not far away, up on the banks of the Loire. This is the first time since we've lived here that I've actually seen the birds being released. I suppose the practice is meant to ensure that the wild populations are not wiped out by hunting.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Clams and such

On Thursday I drove over to the market in Selles-sur-Cher, about a twenty minute drive from home. There were three fish mongers, as usual. Not one of them had coques (cockles) for my linguini with white clam sauce. I did find praires, a much larger bivalve. I hesitated, both the size and the price putting me off. But, not wanting to go home empty-handed again, I gave in a bought a kilo.

The cockles are small and the praires are big.

I also looked for zucchini (a low-cal addition to Tasha's wet food). Again, not one of the several produce vendors had any. When I asked one, he said the season was over. Hmm. So I decided to stop into a nearby supermarket on my way home. Of course, they had zucchini. The also had coques! They were small, but sold for a price much lower than I expected to spend. So I got half a kilo.

The finished dish.

Ken purged the shellfish in salt water with semolina for a couple of hours before we made the sauce. He sauteed minced garlic and onion in olive oil, then added white wine and the two kinds of clams, steaming them until they opened. We added a small amount of tomato sauce (left over from pizza Wednesday), making ours a pink clam sauce. After adding the cooked linguini, we served it all with chopped parsley.

As I said before, the coques were smaller than I'm used to so there wasn't much to them. The praires were bigger, but also a little tougher than the coques. In any event, it tasted fine and we ate it all. I'll look for coques again between now and the holidays.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Wednesday's pizza

This is the second of the two pizzas I made for lunch on Wednesday. The crust is home-made using a recipe that I've modified over the years. It takes three to four hours of rising, so it can be made in the morning and be ready for lunch.

Pizza #1 had a thinner crust but was just as delicious.

The toppings are: a light tomato sauce (made from home-grown tomatoes and oregano), sliced pancetta, sliced button mushrooms, sheeps' cheese (Ossau-Iraty from the Basque region), and some black Greek-style olives. We gobbled down both pies with our last bottle of this year's Beaujolais nouveau. After, we had a salad of escarole with a thousand island-style dressing.

I was more or less successful in my search for coques (cockles) yesterday. Details tomorrow.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Wish me luck

I'm venturing out this morning to find coques (cockles). They're like miniature clams and they're very tasty in a white clam sauce for pasta. It's market day in a nearby town where there are a couple (maybe three) fish mongers and where I've found coques before. I'll drive over there as soon as it gets light out.

Fallen oak leaves (I think) among the ivy.

Temperatures are predicted to stay in the single digits for the remainder of the week, possibly for the remainder of the year. The solstice is three weeks away. Winter is upon us.