Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The old castle

That's what Châteauvieux means. That, as opposed to châteauneuf, which means "new castle" or Newcastle. That well-known wine appellation in southern France is called Châteauneuf-du-Pape (the pope's new castle), dating from the time when the popes had relocated to nearby Avignon.

The castle at Châteauvieux seen from the old cemetery across the street. April 2004.

Just a short post today. We're waiting for the phone guy to arrive to attach us to our neighborhood's newly strung fiber optic line. First, he (or she, but I'll bet it's a he) will run a line from the pole to the house, then he'll run the wire from there into the house and hook us up. He could be here anytime after 08h00. We moved a bunch of stuff around inside the house yesterday to prepare. I think we're ready.

Monday, January 30, 2023


The castle at Châteauvieux was transformed into a convalescent home in the 1920s. In 1998, the facility became une maison de retraite médicalisée, what I think we would call an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Detail on the château de Châteauvieux. April 2004.

The town of Châteauvieux is about six kilometers from Saint-Aignan; a short drive. Ken went to a winery over there a few weeks ago and brought back red, white, and rosé wines. They were young, 2022 vintage, and pretty good.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

A glimpse of Valençay

The château at Valençay is close by, a little more than twenty kilometers as the corbeau flies. We visited many times in the early days, especially with friends from the US. Not so much now. And while it's a little off the big château circuit, the furnished interiors, the kitchen, and the grounds are worth taking some time to have a look.

One of several towers at the château in Valençay. October 2004.

Today we're having Second Thanksgiving. Ken found a pintade (guinea hen) on sale at the supermarket. We'll roast that and serve it along with a batch of stuffing leftover (and frozen) from Christmas and some sweet potatoes. There's even a little cranberry sauce left. Gobble, gobble!

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Is this it?

This was the snow we got a couple of weeks ago. It's the only snow we've had this season, so far. And it didn't last long once the sun came up. February is just around the corner so there is still time for snow. I don't have the numbers, but I think I can say, anecdotally, that we get most of our snow in February. March snow is always a possibility, too. Last frost danger is in mid-May.

I'm not even sure this would qualify as "a dusting."

It's too early to start looking forward to spring. Still, I'm beginning to tire of the daily fire chores (cleaning, splitting, lugging, and building). It always happens at some point near mid-winter. I'll get through it. The fire is nice once I get it going. And it helps us to use less heating oil.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Funky feline fotos

Here's Bert lounging on the back of the sofa in the living room. You might think he's been enjoying the view, looking for movement out in the yard. But no. There's a radiator right behind the couch and he's soaking up heat.

Bert's got a lot more white hair than he used to. We're all getting older.

He also has a favorite radiator up in the loft. That one is flat on top so he just climbs right up and snoozes, bathed in warmth. The radiator up there is not turned up to full, so it's not too hot. Another of his favorite spots is inside the fireplace next to the wood stove. He climbs right in and curls up, although he doesn't stay all that long.

Thursday, January 26, 2023


You can tell this is not a recent photo. The sky is clear and blue. It's not here. Not today. It's drizzling out there right now and the temperature is not much above zero. It's winter in the Touraine.

Le collégiale St.-Sylvain de Levroux. October 2004.

I was industrious yesterday getting a wheelbarrow-full of fallen sticks and branches picked up and stashed where it's dryer. I'm hopeful that by the time I need them they'll be dry enough to burn.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

More glass

Here's another detail shot of one of the stained glass windows in the collégiale Saint-Sylvain at Levroux. The words mean "Hail, queen of heaven," and come from an old prayer, according to what I found in the internet.

Stained glass, St.-Sylvain de Levroux. October 2004.

Today is predicted to be the last dry day before the possibility of rain on Thursday. I plan to get outside and pick up a bunch of the little branches that were knocked out of our linden tree in the recent windy weather. I want to put them in a dry place and use them as kindling for the wood stove. In past years I also gathered twigs and branches dropped by our birches, but those trees are gone now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Close up

Here's a close up of one of the stained glass windows in the collégiale Saint-Sylvain in Levroux. I haven't done any research about the windows, so I don't know when they were installed or who created them. I'm sure the info is out there somewhere, but I know it's not on Wikipedia.

Detail in a window, St.-Sylvain de Levroux. October 2004.

It's time to pay the car insurance bill for the year. It used to be easy to pay on the company's web site, but for the past several years their site will not accept my American credit card. So I have to go into town and pay the bill in person. The card works fine in their office, so there's no problem with the card or my bank. I guess point-of-sale transactions are ok with the foreign card, but internet transactions are blocked. I'll see the staff once again in a few months when it's time to pay the homeowner's insurance.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Saturday was pizza day

The last of the leftover Christmas turkey is gone. Ken chopped it finely and I added some smoked paprika and a few drops of liquid smoke. The turkey went on first, followed by red, green, and yellow bell peppers and some canned corn. I topped it all with grated comté cheese. We usually use a store-bought smoked chicken on this pie, but the flavored turkey worked just fine.

The second of two pizzas we ate on Saturday. The original version doesn't have corn on top, but I think it adds a nice southwestern quality.

This pizza is inspired by one we used to get from Wolfgang Puck's pizzeria in the Cellar at Macy's in downtown San Francisco. It was topped with cubes of smoked chicken, coarsely chopped bell peppers, and grated cheese (of some sort; I don't remember what kind it was). I liked that pizza so much that every so often I would drive down to Union Square (we lived in Glen Park) and park in the garage just to get one (or two) for dinner. Later, we found that same Wolfgang Puck pizza, frozen, at one of the supermarkets we frequented, but it was not anywhere near as good as the made-to-order, wood-fired pizzeria version.

Sunday, January 22, 2023


When I made crêpes Suzette the other day, I was careful to take a photo of the ingredients for the sauce. Then I got so excited about eating the finished crêpes that I forgot to take a photo of them. Oh well. They were tasty.

Ingredients for the sauce: butter, confectioner's sugar, grated orange zest, juice from said orange, and Triple Sec.

I didn't really follow a recipe, but I looked at a couple before mixing up the sauce by eye. All the ingredients are there, I just didn't measure anything. In case you're wondering, I did do the flambé thing after adding the Triple Sec. The house is still standing.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

The black and white

I've given this shot of the interior of St.-Sylvain de Levroux the black and white treatment. The original is mostly monochromatic with light and dark contrasts. I think it looks better this way.

Saint-Sylvain de Levroux. October 2004.

All my errands went well yesterday. A bunch of recycling is gone, a few cases of wine were bought, a dose of flea and tick preventative for Bert was obtained, and a cartload of groceries was procured. We had a few leftover crêpes that Ken made on Thursday and a leftover orange in the fridge. So I made crêpes Suzette for dessert. Tasty!

Friday, January 20, 2023

A gargoyle

And a clock. Both are part of the collégiale church of Saint-Sylvain in Levroux.

Two o'clock and all is well. St.-Sylvain de Levroux. October 2004.

We had a visit from a representative of our internet service provider a couple of days ago. Now that the fiber optic line has been installed in our neighborhood, they're ready to hook us up. A technician will be here in a little over a week to do the deed. Will our internet speed be noticeably faster? Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The doors

Break on through to the other side! Oh, wrong doors. These are the entry doors on the collégiale Saint-Sylvain in Levroux. I don't have much to say about them so I'll just post the photo.

The door on the left has a small person-sized door cut out of it. St.-Sylvain de Levroux, October 2004.

When the sun came up yesterday, we were surprised to see some snow on the ground. Not much, but here and there were patches of white ground. The puddles on the paved road were frozen, but those in the dirt road through the vineyard were not. Shortly after sunrise, it all started to melt.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The ceiling

This is the ceiling above the nave in the collégiale of St.-Sylvain in Levroux. It's a good example of the emerging gothic style of the time (ribbed vaults, pointed arches). The church was built in the thirteenth century.

Looking up. Collégial St.-Sylvain, Levroux. October 2004.

We had a little (very little) snow yesterday and overnight. There's no accumulation. The ground is too warm and wet. But there's a little ice here and there. Our outdoor thermometer says we're just at freezing. We should warm up by a couple of degrees as the day dawns.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Tennis in the morning

Melbourne is ten hours ahead of us here in France. When we're starting our day, the players at the Australian Open are moving into the evening/night session. I was watching yesterday's first round play just after 08h00. Rafael Nadal was playing on one Eurosport channel and Cameron Norrie, pictured here, was on the other. The sun was just about to rise when I snapped this shot.

The living room just before sunrise on Monday.

The wind finally died down yesterday evening, but it's still raining off and on. They keep saying we'll get some snow between now and tomorrow as the temperature continues to drop.

Monday, January 16, 2023

A side chapel

While inside the collégiale of Saint-Sylvain de Levroux, I wandered into a side chapel. This is the view from inside the chapel back into the nave. I liked the way light from the chapel windows was cast onto the chapel door, not to mention the colorful stained glass in the nave itself.

Let there be light. St.-Sylvain de Levroux, October 2004.

We're having a wind storm and some serious rain. I slept through the worst of it early this morning. Ken said it kept him awake for a couple of hours. Usually it's the other way around, me being the one who can't sleep through storms. The storm is moving through as I type this (07h00) and the rain is tapering off now. The weather people are now saying there may be snow on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, the temperatures predicted are not quite below zero until late Tuesday night. If there is snow, it probably won't accumulate.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

The organ

What a set of pipes! This is the pipe organ in the collégiale of Saint-Sylvain de Levroux. It was built in the early sixteenth century and is one of France's oldest. I read that it was recently renovated; this photo dates from 2004, well before the latest renovation.

I think that's Ken in the lower left. Saint-Sylvain de Levroux, October 2004.

We're still under gray skies with periods of rain. It's getting colder, but there's no danger of freezing at this point. The daily fire keeps us cozy warm, at least in the living room. That's where the thermostat is, so the rest of the house cools down a little when the wood stove is operating.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The altar

This is the alter of the collégiale Saint-Sylvain de Levroux. I'm standing in the nave looking toward the choir and apse. I was new to digital photography in 2004, using one of Ken's cameras to take these photos. I got my first digital camera in 2006.

The autel (altar) and chœur (choir) at St.-Sylvain de Levroux.

Another windy and wet day is ahead for us. I suppose it's better than snow and ice. Still, we should get some below-freezing weather at some point. We have half of January and all of February and March to go.

Ken's making choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with smoked meats) for lunch today. Nice comfort food for a gray day.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Stained glass and arches

A friend of ours recently posted a photo of the château at Levroux, a medieval town not far from where we live. Her post reminded me of the time that Ken and I visited there with some American friends back in 2004 (pre blog!) and wandered around for a while. One of the highlights was the church and we all took lots of photos inside.

Stained glass inside the medieval collégiale Saint-Sylvain de Levroux.

The church of Saint-Sylvain, technically called a collégiale, was built in the thirteenth century. The stained glass windows are quite impressive, but I don't know if they're original. There's an impressive pipe organ that is, according to Wikipedia, among the oldest in France, having been built in the sixteenth century.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Looking east

Here's a throw-away photo of the back yard. I'm standing in the west forty looking across the vegetable garden plot toward the north forty. The giant Himalayan cedar looms large. It's dying. Another year or so and we'll have to have it cut down. The grass is very green thanks to all the rain we've been having.

The yard in winter.

I've got some errands to run today. Time to get busy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

More hedges

In this shot, taken from the guest room window, you can see just how neat and tidy the hedges are. You can also see the difference in height between the low hedge on the western end (and in yesterday's post) and the roadside hedge on the left. The rounded hedge in the back corner is our bay laurel.

The hedges will start growing again in the spring.

Our weather continues to be gray and damp with brief periods of sun here and there. It's still not very cold, although I am making fires nearly every day. The house stays comfortable and we don't burn fuel oil.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Looking west

It's so nice when the hedges get trimmed. Sometimes I think about tearing them out and replacing them with a wall. It's not likely to happen. It might have been worth the investment twenty years ago, but there were other priorities. Now, well, there are still other priorities. Of course, we wouldn't have to pay anyone to trim a wall every year.

Lowering these hedges opened up the view of the vineyard beyond. We got a new gate in 2018.

These hedges on the west end of our yard were more than twice this height when we moved in. For many years I trimmed them (and all the rest) myself. Teetering on a ladder and taking a couple of weeks to do the job got old fast. I think the last time I did the trimming myself was in the fall of 2011. For the last eleven years (!), we've paid a landscape contractor to do it. His crew does the whole job in less than one day.

Monday, January 09, 2023

Cherry be gone

Here's a view I rarely post: the back side of the garden shed. I just wanted to document the absence of the cherry tree. The stump is visible in the lower right. It was a scraggly looking tree. Half of it was dead. The fruit was mostly inedible. So now it's firewood.

There's work to be done! The north side of the garden shed. Taken with the Pixel 6.

I've got to do some clean-up back there this spring. Brambles are beginning to take hold, so they need pulling out, and I'd like to get that ivy off the wall (the ivy is dead, having been cut at ground level). I could power-wash the algae off, too. The building could use a paint job, but that's ambitious.

I built those two areas for composting by stacking cement blocks that we found on the property when we moved in almost twenty years ago. They could use some tidying up. And it's time for that rain barrel to go. It was never practical except as a breeding ground for mosquitos.

Sunday, January 08, 2023


Not only did the guys split the birch and cherry logs in the yard, they also stacked them with the other firewood. The cherry logs are the orange-red ones on top of the pile. The tree was dying and looked awful. Its cherries were mostly pit, the little bit of flesh they had was too tart and not much good for anything. We're glad it's gone.

There are two stacks, one in front of the other. I'm moving the cherry toward the right to get to the birch and oak below. Taken with the Pixel 6.

The only (very minor) complaint I have is that the newly cut wood is stacked on top of the oak and other pieces of firewood. The cherry needs to sit for about a year before I can burn it. I'm attempting to move the cherry logs from one spot so I can reach the birch and the oak below it. It's the firewood shuffle.

Saturday, January 07, 2023

Galette des rois v. 2023

Here's this year's version of the traditional galette des rois (Kings' cake) made for the Epiphany. In our region, the "cake" is made with pâte feuilletée (flaky pastry) filled with a frangipane custard. For some reason, the two halves of this year's cake sort of separated in the oven, even though I had stuck them together using egg wash, as I always do. No matter. It still tasted the same. Neither one of us got the fève in the first piece, so it's still inside the cake. We'll see if it shows up today.

Galette des rois, 2023. Taken with the Pixel 6.

Making the cake (it's not really a cake, but more of a pastry) each year is an almost day-long process. I make my own flaky pastry. It has to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes between each fold. I did between six and eight double folds altogether, I lost count, and I didn't mark the dough to remember. It's a little work, but for a once-a-year pastry, it's okay. I also make the frangipane filling myself. Store-bought galettes can be good (especially from a good bakery), but you pay a lot for them. A decent compromise is to buy the flaky pastry pre-made from the supermarket. I've done that a time or two, but I enjoy making my own. It comes out a little different every year.

Friday, January 06, 2023

Now you see 'em, now you don't

Back in late 2021, when the landscape contractor and his crew took down the dead and dying birches in the north forty, I asked them to cut the trunks and large branches into thirty-three centimeter lengths so I could use them as firewood. They did, and stacked them under the tall Himalayan cedar. I thought I'd be able to split them last year, but I couldn't. There they've sat since then. Until now.

Before, from up on the deck. I had already moved about ten logs to help stabilize the bigger log pile. Taken with the Canon 6D.

The crew spent a couple of hours on Wednesday afternoon manually splitting the trunks into pieces that I can fit into the wood stove. They also moved them over to the log pile under the deck. So cool. I burned a bunch of the wood yesterday and it burns well.

After, at ground level. I'm still working on cutting up the smaller branches for kindling. Taken with the Pixel 6.

I wonder if my failure to split the logs myself was partly because they needed to dry out a little more. Could be, but most likely it was because I'm not strong enough and my axe isn't hefty enough. I'm a lumberjack no more. I can still split the already split logs into smaller pieces, as long as there are no knots to cut through.

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Beyond the north forty

A fence separates our yard from the strip of woods to our north. Beyond the woods is a vineyard. Over the past few winters, wind storms have knocked down a lot of trees in those woods. A good majority of them are birches, including three from our own yard. Nobody seems to know who owns that land. We'd like it cleaned up a bit, and our neighbor to the east, whose property also borders the woods, told us that there are several trees leaning precariously over her property that she wants to see gone.

The strip of woods beyond our fence is a mess. Taken with the Canon 6D.

We know that if trees or shrubs are encroaching on someone's property, they have the right to cut them back. At least, we think we know that. But our neighbor doesn't believe she should have to pay for that. I don't blame her, but I'd rather have the trees gone before they fall on the fence.

One dead tree has been hanging over our yard for years. Yesterday, as part of his work chez nous, the landscape contractor cut it all down and got rid of it. Still, our view to the north is not particularly pretty.

I'm really happy with the work he and his crew did yesterday. The hedges are freshly trimmed, a dying cherry tree is gone, and all those birch trunks that I wanted to keep for firewood have now been split and stacked. I'll take some "after" photos today and post them soon.

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Wind and rain

The wind is back, but it's not too bad this time. And we've been having rain showers off and on. But it's not cold. They always say that we need some cold weather each winter to control the population of pests like insects and rodents. Winter is still young, however, and January and February are typically the coldest months. We shall see.

Overcast, wet, and windy. Taken with the Pixel 6.

The landscape contractor who does our hedges dropped by late yesterday afternoon to say that his crew would be here this morning to start work. We talked about a few other things, too. We will delay taking down the tall Himalayan cedar and instead remove a dying cherry and a completely dead tree that's leaning into our yard on the north side. He also said he could split the birch logs from the trees that he took down in 2021. That will be a big help. I've tried doing it myself, but I'm not strong enough, so they've just been sitting out in the yard. I will be able burn the logs in the wood stove once they're split.

He also offered us more firewood -- he's taken a tree down for someone else and has to get rid of the wood. I think he said it was a tilleul (linden tree) and that we'd have to wait a year or two for it to season before we burn it, but that's ok. And lastly, he said he could till up our garden plot this spring. We had a lot of trouble tilling last year because the ground was so dry. The landscaper probably has a more powerful tiller than we do.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Tasha Tuesday & Funky Feline Fotos

One of the interesting things about using the new mobile phone as a camera is that the animules haven't figured it out yet. If I wanted to take this shot with the DSLR, by the time I walked into the den and got the camera, put a card in it, and possibly changed the lens, Tasha and Bert would know I was up to something and follow me around. And Tasha would bark; she's learned that getting the camera means we might be going outside. Photo op missed. Now, with the phone sitting on the dining room table, I can quietly pick it up and take a picture without them hearing anything.

Tasha and Bert watch the birds on the feeders. Taken with the Pixel 6.

We had a mostly rainy day on Monday, with the sun making an appearance in the afternoon. You can see that the deck is wet in the photo. Overnight was clear with the waxing moon making things bright. Friday is the Epiphany and you know what that means: une galette des rois!

Monday, January 02, 2023

NYD Wine

Every once in a while, especially on holidays, we like to drink wine from outside our region. On New Year's Day, we had this Séguret red, a Côtes du Rhône Villages. It's made mostly with grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre grapes, but can include grapes of several other varieties. It was tasty and a nice change from our everyday wine, which is mostly gamay, cabernet, and malbec.

The wine went well with our meal of sausages and black-eyed peas. Taken with the Pixle 6.

Having this wine made us think about when we visited the village of Séguret. I have a clear memory of being there, but no solid memory of when. The village hugs the foothills of a mountain formation called les Dentelles de Montmirail and is a favorite stop for tourists in the region. Other well-know wine villages in the area include Gigondas and Sablet.

I got Christmas put away yesterday, as planned. The lights were pretty, but nearly three weeks is enough. I also made a batch of cranberry/pecan biscotti. The photos of them I took didn't work, so I'll try again today.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Happy New Year!

Our New Year's Eve meal didn't quite turn out the way we envisioned. Ken went to the market yesterday morning and couldn't find any of the things we wanted at the fish monger's stand. No scallops, no langoustines, no langoustes. All sold out. He went to the supermarket to find the same situation, more or less. So he got something frozen.

Jumbo prawns and artichoke hearts. Taken with the Pixel 6.

We nibbled on a confit of tomato with basil spread on crackers as an appetizer. Then we ate prawns and artichoke hearts with a sriracha mayonnaise. The last dish was ready-made and frozen scallops baked in the shell with a béchamel kind of sauce. It was all good, but not quite what we had in mind. No matter. A few sips of Champagne rinsed away any sense of disappointment.

Baked scallops in béchamel. Taken with the Pixel 6.

Today a new year dawns. The black-eyed peas are already cooking on the stove (in turkey broth) and we have some boudin blanc to go with them. I'm going to make a batch of cranberry and pecan biscotti later this morning. Happy 2023!