Friday 30 November 2012

Lucky, or what!

I can't remember where I bought them, but we have several of these old 'Persian style' tiles. They've followed us from home to home, tucked away in the bottom of some cardboard box, and been confined to various sheds.

Recently, however, Lady Magnon decided to put them out on the kitchen windowsill, and also to find out a bit more about them from 'the net'. 

And she has just discovered THIS (above). They were hand made and painted in Holland in 1885, and were imported into England to cater for London's ever-eager late 19th C Arts and Crafts clientelle. They were marketed by a Mr Murray Marks.  

And the best bit? They're priced at £145 for each, very rare, tile (now you have to imagine Cro dancing an energetic hornpipe).

If you recognise them, and have a boxful in your own garden shed, may I suggest that you handle them with care!

I'm just sorry now that they weren't signed William de Morgan.

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Thursday 29 November 2012

Happy Birthday Bok Magnon; he's TWO!

Yesterday (28. 11. 2012), Bok was 2. Although we've known him since he was about 3 months old, he's only actually been living with us for about a year. 

Bok and I are very much in love; and why not! Above is his typical pose; head on my lap, eyes looking up into mine, and that look that says 'I'd go to the ends of the earth for you, boss'.

OK, it's not a cake, but it's what he most likes to eat (and he did have 'knacki' sausages for lunch). He also received a nice new black mattress for his Snooze-a-While, XXL, chew proof, plastic bed.  

So, Happy Birthday little Bok, and may you enjoy many, many, more! xxxxx (from the boss)

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Wednesday 28 November 2012

Making That Wish.

In every English 'foodie' household, they will be stirring Mincemeat, and making wishes. Lady Magnon has just called me to the kitchen to let me make mine.

Did you know that Mincemeat should only ever be stirred in a clockwise direction? To do so anticlockwise is courting disaster for the year ahead.

One should also make a wish on eating your first mince pie (which should be eaten in silence).

Now then; what should I wish for. Ah yes; I know.............

p.s. And don't forget that Santa's favourite snack, whilst out delivering presents, is a mince pie left conveniently by the chimney. Failure to provide could prove disastrous.
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Tuesday 27 November 2012

Pickled Onions.

The other day, I was visiting the 'Foreign Foods' section of my local Supermarket, to buy a jar of Branston. Whilst there I spotted a tiny bottle of Heinz pickled onions, and my desire became uncontrollable. The price tag said something crazy (we're talking here of about 6 baby onions, a splash of vinegar, and a glass jar) so I returned at once to the vegetable department and bought two bags of small onions.

Once eye-wateringly peeled, they were put to soak overnight in brine (above), then packed into jars and covered with a sweetened cold spiced vinegar. I'll try to leave them for at least a week before tasting.

I'm forward-thinking to thick cold slices of Boxing Day Turkey, when pickled red cabbage, gherkins, and onions, will be ESSENTIAL.

I've already been back to buy a few more bags of these little onions, which are now also being processed. Roll on Christmas!
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Monday 26 November 2012

Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop...

I have often mentioned, that I am one of those people who wakes up each morning feeling 'HAPPY', but there are certain things (and, unfortunately, people) that can change all that in an instant.

This horse, and his two mates, live just opposite the southern end of Haddock's; my vegetable garden. They have hardly any grass, absolutely no shelter, AND (YET AGAIN) NOT A DROP OF WATER.

Occasionally in the height of summer, if they've been without water for several days, we struggle down with buckets and watering-cans to assuage their thirst. Their owners live less than 50 metres away, have a hose pipe permanently connected (bottom left), and can deliver water with just the relaxed turn of a tap; one can but wonder why they don't actually do it.

They should really be reported to the SPA (French RSPCA), as they adhere to NONE of the simple requirements of horse husbandry. However, for various reasons, I keep my mouth firmly zipped. As with their wonderful orange-bloody-wall, I despair in silence.

Personally I am of the opinion that if one has any sort of animals under one's care, that THEIR welfare should come before EVERYTHING else. 

Sadly my self-obsessed idiot neighbours prefer to just think only of themselves, and it makes me fucking angry! Meanwhile, their horses go thirsty.


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Sunday 25 November 2012

What a Load of Rubbish.

In my humble opinion, rubbish never used to be a problem.

Paper was burned, vegetable matter composted, glass usually recycled, and assorted plastic and tin cans left outside for the dustmen (I'm talking about back in the UK).

Yet Town Hall moguls see things differently. Now they want everything sorted into materials, colours, weights, sizes, and probably cleanliness as well; hence the THREE charming Wheelie-bins permanently parked outside each cottage above.

A few years back, the dustman would have gone happily along (maybe twice a week), picking up a single black plastic bag by each front door. Now, for each house, he has to wheel THREE large ungainly plastic bins to a distant lorry, attach them to some lifting device, empty them, and return them to their correct home. Have the 'time and motion' boys not done any research on this, I wonder?

I find it all very silly, very ugly, and usually very smelly.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. If you put a cabbage leaf in the blue bin, or a Coke bottle in the green one, you receive an instant ten year jail sentence, and a £200,000 fine. And what happens to the different coloured bins? They all get emptied into the same lorry, of course! 

HOORAH..... The inmates really are running the asylum.


Saturday 24 November 2012

Lady Magnon's Rock Cakes.

I'm partial to a cup of Lapsang between 3.30 and 4.00 pm. If I was in England it would be accompanied by a couple of McVitie's dark chocolate digestives; the world's finest biscuit.

Such delights are as yet unavailable here, so alternatives must be found. 

One such is Lady M's Rock Cakes. She has now perfected the recipe, and a week's worth of buns takes her just a couple of minutes to produce.

She incorporates chopped prunes, glacé cherries, and raisins, and I ask her to leave them in the oven for 5 mins more than recommended; I like them a little browned on both top and bottom..... How pampered is THAT!

Now, if you'll excuse me; I think I just heard the tea bell.
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Friday 23 November 2012

Warmth 2015/16

My good friend José is thinning his Chestnut plantation, the trees are now touching each other and the lower branches are dying off. He's taking out every other tree.

Two years ago he began thinning, and the resulting wood is now sawn and stacked chez nous; I bought 10 cu ms.

I haven't yet broached the subject of this lot; but if he's selling, I'm buying (even though we have about 30 cu ms in stock).

One can NEVER have too much wood!

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Thursday 22 November 2012

Cro and 'birthday boy' Ollie, both aged 5.

Always keep ahold of Mum
for fear of finding something glum.

Good solid legs, hair that's out of one's face, no interfering socks, washable heavy-duty clothes, sturdy pair of kicking shoes. That's all a boy needs when he's 5.

Ollie has now reached that same wonderful age as I was above, and is showing all those glorious Magnon family traits and style choices (OK, he's better looking than I was).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Ollie.  A boy to be taken seriously. Hearts will melt!

Lots of love from Grumpy. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

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Wednesday 21 November 2012

Paté Making 2012.

When there's a 7 Kilo lump of belly pork, 1½ Kilos of hand of pork, and a good sized duck foie gras, all together on the kitchen table, there's only one thing to do;... make next year's Paté.   

Last year, and in 2010, I slightly under-salted my Paté, so this year I've done what I should have done previously, and fried up a small amount of the mixture, to taste before bottling. One needs to put a lot more salt in than one imagines. Grammes of salt, per kilo of meat, mean nothing; taste is the only way. I'm hoping I've got it right this time, it certainly seemed so.

And here's the result. Above are my ten cooled and cleaned 200 gm jars; I'll process another eight 350 gm jars today.

I'm just doing my 'Special Paté' this year. A good coarse peasant Paté with a walnut sized heart of foie gras in each jar.

Our ordinary 'every-day' Paté for 2013 will be bought ready made. I've discovered some wonderful commercial Patés over the years (especially certain espelette flavoured Basque Patés), and it's simply not worth my time bothering to try to better them.

N.B. If you wish to see how I do everything, type Paté 2011 into the little white box on the top left hand corner of my page, click the search button, and it'll come up (é = AltGr + e).

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Tuesday 20 November 2012

Confiscate That Camera; Quick!

Autumn; season of mists and mellow frui....... Oh do shut-up Cro! Forget bloody Keats;... let's just keep to one or two snaps!

About ten minutes after I'd taken the above, the sun appeared; sorry, but I just didn't have the time to re-take them..... they could have been so much better. (There were also hunters about, so I feared for my safety)

There; that's another Keats's Autumn put to bed.

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Monday 19 November 2012

Stoned Again!

I suppose this is the final stage of the 'tower' build; a new coat of crushed stone, on which to park the Compact Royce.

I ordered a lorry-load (2 cu ms) of stone, from our bloody JCB man, about two years ago.... and its only recently turned-up.

It's a good thing I'm not impatient!

Looks OK; don't you think?

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Sunday 18 November 2012

The Sunday 'Oh Dear'!

All the trees are dying, the nice Burmese Buddhists are killing the Burmese Muslims, the Arabs are still lobbing home-made rockets over the border at the Jews (who like to retaliate; Big Time), and there is now talk of our military folk going into bloody Syria.

Sometimes I really worry for the future of the world.

Personally I try to be a 'good citizen'. I don't burgle houses, fight in pubs, or drive the wrong way up motorways. I like to think that I am polite, I eat with my mouth closed, and I hold my knife and fork correctly. I say 'please' and 'thank you', give-up my seat to pregnant (or not) women on the tube, and help the elderly across the road. I try to treat the planet with respect, I'm kind to animals, and I love my family dearly.

But why do so many chose to act otherwise? Why do so many enjoy being uncouth or cruel? Why is being an oafish dope-smoking hoodlum so ridiculously 'fashionable'?

Occasionally I despair about the human race. We are violent, blood thirsty, destructive, envious, jealous, ambitious, self-centred, arrogant, and pompous.

There's a wonderful world out there, with so much on offer; most of which is free. But there are times when I just want to bury my head in the sand, and say 'dig me up when all the idiots have learned how to behave'.

Sorry about this, but sometimes listening to The News makes me so bloody angry.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Competition Time.

Cro's been busy with his saw, hammer, and nails; but what could it be?

Ethereal prizes for the best, amusing, or most inventive answers.

Clue: It's not an outdoor Thunderbox, Bee Hive, or Dustbin!

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Friday 16 November 2012

It's here...

Yup, it was the third Thursday of November yesterday, and with it arrived the Beaujolais Nouveau.

As well as our usual few bottles of Beaujolais, I also bought a bottle of Gaillac Nouveau. Gaillac is situated between Albi and Toulouse; so more of a local wine for us than the Beaujolais.

If you still have Chestnuts about, why not roast a few, and enjoy them with a glass or two of this year's new wine. It's the perfect combination. 

All were good, all were not overly expensive, and all, unfortunately, had ghastly garish labels worthy of Chateau Disney.

Thursday 15 November 2012

What On Earth.....

Living deep in the countryside, there are surprises around every corner.

Up behind our barn, in an old Walnut tree, I've just discovered this HUGE hornet's nest. It is about 2 ft long, and 18 ins wide. When I took these photos I saw a few hornets still flying around; in the Summer it must have contained enough nasty insects to kill an entire army.

The dropping of Autumn leaves reveals many secrets; occasionally nasty dangerous ones like this!.

I've informed the owner of the field, and it will probably be destroyed. It would be nice to get the whole thing down intact (without the hornets), but I imagine that's near impossible.

For true impact, do enlarge photos.

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Wednesday 14 November 2012

EU, and Euro, Confidence!

I have just noticed that my local supermarket is still marking prices both in Euros, AND IN FRANCS.

Do you think they know something we don't? It might leave a nasty taste in her mouth, but I think Ms Merkel should be informed!

It took me well over 30 years to REALLY understand the value of the Franc (in the same way as I do the UK Pound). Now, I spend my Euros simply as 'numbers'. If, or when, the Euro goes into liquidation, I, for one, would be extremely happy to see the return of the French Franc.

In the top photo, €2.67 means very little to me, but 17.51 Fr I understand at once. 
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Tuesday 13 November 2012

Cro's 'Lumberjack' Pork Pie.

It sounds simple. You make a pastry with flour, lard (I used duck fat), boiling water, and salt. Press it into a specially-made heavy pork-pie tin. Fill with seasoned coarsely ground pork. Top with more pastry. And bake.

Well that's what I did, and, yes, it was simple. But to achieve a real Melton Mowbray style pie is not so easy.

As you can see, I slightly burned the top (it wasn't as bad as it looks); using our wood-fired cooker is a little hit-n-miss on temperature. I covered it with aluminium foil, and all was then OK.

When I asked Lady Magnon for her verdict, she said "It reminds me of the pie that Pip stole for Magwitch..... it's very good". She always says the right things! 

Now all I have to do is work on my technique with the jelly; all the gaps should have been filled. I couldn't get it to pour in; too much pork inside perhaps!

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Monday 12 November 2012

Warfare: An Armistice Day Special (one day late).

In Roman times, the average legionnaire would fight for about 30 minutes at a time; the weight, and ungainliness, of his armour was exhausting.

In the 16th Century, when Knights went into battle with both themselves and their horses heavily armoured; complete major battles might have lasted just one day. The poor Knights were winched up onto their mounts, either froze or sweated buckets inside their metalwork, and could hardly see a thing. It was all to much for them, and as soon as the opposition King or Leader was found with an arrow through his eye, they moved into some captured castle, and dined on looted Swans. (Anyway, would you want to risk scratching that beautiful armour?)

So, why is it today, when we possess such sophisticated kit, do wars last so long, and achieve so little? Shouldn't we, at least, return with a few captured oil-fields?

When I attended my CCF 'Officer Training' course, the very first thing I learned on day 1 (from Page 1, Para 1, of The Sandhurst 'How To Win Wars' book) was...

1. Know your enemy.
2. Go in strong.
3. Go in hard.

One really has to wonder if any of our contemporary military chiefs actually read that same book.

When we all pull out of Afghanistan in 2014; other than huge expense and terrible loss of life, what will we have actually gained? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! 

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