Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The incredible price of Christmas chocolates,

Each year when the christmas chocolates come out in the supermarkets we are amazed by the expensive prices here in France.

We are talking about run of the mill chocolates like the two examples below, Quality Street and Celebrations.


We enjoy them both and Elizabeth can eat some of them as well. Here they are over TWICE the price they are in Angleterre.... Quality Street  €13.83 per Kg against £5:00, the same for Celebrations. WHY???

I think we will have to get some imports or have a chocolate free Christmas!!!

Due to our hectic social calender during December we will be limiting our daily blog to single caption photographs reflecting our last year here in France. We will be back in FULL in January...

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

One of the smallest...

One of the smallest visitors to our garden is little jenny wren. She lives around our well and we have seen her there many times since we have been here but up until now it has been impossible to get a decent photograph. This week she has been venturing out and about a bit and I managed to catch her after she had been feeding in our planter.

Elizabeth has over the past week has been painting, mainly tits, but when I managed to photograph the wren, Elizabeth also painted one...

 I think it is brilliant, but you should see her tits!!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Vidange annualle de l'étang d'Assay

Our weekly Sunday outing began with a visit to a Vide Armoire, in aid of the village school at Champigny-sur-Veude, our neighbouring village as we travel north from Braye to Chinon. It proved a fruitful hunting-ground for swatches of fabric for Elizabeth's craft work.

As the rather miserable morning had given way to a brighter afternoon, we followed this with a walk around the transects we had surveyed during the summer months as part of the French Butterfly Atlas (STERF) project. Surprisingly, considering the date, we spotted a butterfly and a fine dragonfly but weren't quick enough with the camera to capture either of them. The range of flowers still in good form was amazing!

We had noticed that the nearby étang d'Assay had been drained and were interested to take a look. The 'vidange' is an annual event and according to the sign by the side of the road, it takes just five hours to complete.  Follow the link above for more details of the site at Assay.


Exposed to air, the muddy bottom of the étang is re-oxygenated, which increases the supply of micro-organic food for fish and birds. If this traditional method were stopped, the basin would fill in and the natural balance of wildlife species would be threatened.

The muddy basin was a haven for wildfowl and we noted the first gulls we had seen in the area. 

As the sun began to sink low on the horizon the photographer in Colin came to life and his panoramic shot makes a great record of the event.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Gluten free Blueberry and Lemon Muffins - without the blueberries!

The recipe uses dried blueberries but as we didn't have any, I used cranberries instead and it seems to have worked out fine!

Here's the (original) recipe:

Gluten free Blueberry and Lemon Muffins


200gms gluten free all purpose white mix (e.g. Juvela or Glutafin)
Teaspoonful of gluten free baking powder
100g sugar
100 g soft margarine
50 g dried blueberries - *yes, I've shown cranberries not blueberries!
4 eggs
4 tablespoons lemon curd
1 tablespoon of blueberry or blackcurrant jam

Pre-heat oven to 190C; 180C fan oven; Gas 5

Place all the ingredients, except the blueberries and jam, in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy.

Blitz the jam and blueberries in a food processor to form a coarse paste and add this to the flour mixture. Mix well and divide the mixture between muffin cases. (Makes 12 large or 30 mini muffins.)

Bake in pre-heated oven for about 15-20 minutes (10-15 minutes for the mini muffins) until golden and firm to the touch. (thanks to Jean for my cake tester!)

*The number of muffins shown (below) may differ from that shown above....

Serving suggestion:
Delicious served whilst still warm, with a little crème fraîche or ice-cream. They also freeze particularly well (I'm told!)

We were lucky enough to serve them with a few raspberries picked fresh from the garden just this last week!

And finally, my special thanks to Juvela  for this recipe. 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

It's Marché Noël time again!

Today marked the start of our local villages Marché Noël season. These Christmas markets are held in many villages and towns all over France and they are generally well organised and very well supported.

Luzé was holding its first Marché Noel today and we went over after lunch to take a look.

 We were not alone....

Cars lined the approach to the centre of the village and the first site to greet us was a rather dopey looking Père Noël riding in a trap pulled by two donkeys. (Red is obviously the 'in' colour in Luzé at the moment!)

Stalls selling foodstuffs were set out around the Place d'Eglise. The huge pan of Choucroute looked very tempting at 9€ a serving.... What a shame we'd just had lunch!


From here we made our way to the marquee in which were housed stalls selling (varying standards of) craftwork.

Jean, you would have knocked the spots off the bead stall!

This lady demonstrating spinning was happy to let me take her photo...

But the stall attracting the most attention was one displaying tractors and other farm machinery. On close inspection we realised it was all made from wood.


And that was it! Luzé's first Marché Noel!

As we'd expected there weren't many stalls but we had wanted to see it and were glad we'd gone. Christmas spirit flows free at these events, which is always very heart-warming.

But as if to remind us that we've not really had the weather yet to herald Christmas, there were sunflowers still in full bloom as we made our way along the cross-country route home.

Not really what you'd expect for November 26th, is it?!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Just another church clock....

When we went on our travels last Sunday the last place we visited was Ceaux-en-Loudun. It turned out to be a normal village with the usual church and mairie. It was disappointing that the church was locked and we could not have a look around.

Whilst we where in the square the clock in the church struck four o'clock, quite loud it was too.

The clock is manufactured by Lussault à Tiffauges (Vendée) one of France's old clock makers that are still working today. Their one page web site can be viewed here.  The cathedral clock in Le Mans is a later model made by Gourdin and Pellerin a company which Lussault took over in 1929 and is thought to date from the late 1930's. Pictures of the mechanics can be seen here

A video about the company is below. (In French)

Lussault de Tiffauges par Montaigu-Vendee

When you read various internet articles this make of clock is common throughout France.. We will now be looking to spot others.... Perhaps!!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

I want one....

The supermarket at Chinon is now festooned with Christmas lights and it looks very festive.

It also has row after row of children's toys and games. When Elizabeth saw these it was a case of "I want one" !!!

She will have to wait and see what Father Christmas brings!!!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Return of the Mantis

One of the earliest postings we wrote was about finding a praying mantis in the garden. We had managed to photograph it back in October last year when we were busy felling the leylandii which had previously hidden the house from the outside world.

During the intervening months we haven't seen any more of these fascinating creatures.... until a couple of weeks ago I spotted one sunning itself on the side of the house.

It is such an amazing sight that we felt it worth a posting. This one was about 10cm long from head to tail but it's front legs are out of all proportion to the rest of its body and so make it seem much larger.

Its name comes from its 'prayer-like' stance, which is adopts when advancing on its prey.

 Mantises are predatory. The two forelegs are spiked to catch and hold secure their prey. They protect themselves by camouflage and concealment.

On the photo below you will see yellow 'eye spots' on the forelegs. These are shown in threat displays to startle the enemy.

Since the sighting two or three weeks ago we haven't come upon it again... Perhaps it will be another year before we see this magnificent creature again!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The leaning tree of Braye!!

This year one of our apple trees developed a serious lean, probably due to the sheer weight of fruit it produced. It was time to get out the secret weapon for straightening trees. The device is a cheap pull lift I bought some 25 years ago to lift out the engine of a mini (Series 1 with sliding windows!!) I was restoring.. It was however never used as in the end I dropped the whole subframe and removed the engine that way. Since then it has been moved around various garages and survived to be brought to France, where this was its second use.

The tree as it was
Attaching the puller
Slowly pulling 
Is that enough??
The tree propped with a piece of Leylandii (They do have a use after all)

The prop will remain over the winter and into next spring and hopefully by that time the tree will be able to support itself.

The first time I used this technique was with our plum tree which was totally on its side. The tree is still vertical since we removed the props in early summer.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Rambling round the villages - Part 2

Our Sunday walk/drive this weekend took us to the villages of  Marcay, Beuxes and Ceaux-en-Loudun all to the west of Braye and on roads we haven't travelled before. This time we took the map (Serie Bleue 1cm=250m) to supplement the sat nav!

Marçay is a small French village, roughly 20km north west of Braye and 8km south of Chinon. Its inhabitants are called Marcéens and Marcéennes. The village has been in receipt of grants to renovate it and the area around the church and Mairie is now looking quite pristine.

To the right of the second photo you will see a huge trough situated by the roadside. We have never seen one quite so large! What it held we don't know but we guess it must have been water or some type of feed for animals.

The Lavoir has undergone some restoration work. Steps behind it lead up to the presbytery.

Travelling on from Marcay, we stopped to photograph the Chateau, which is now a private hotel.

Close to Beuxes is a plan d'eau where we took a walk. The reflections of the trees on the surface of the water made for some great photo opportunities.

We ended our tour at Ceaux-en-Loudun but we were mildly disappointed with the village. In past weeks we've been lucky enough to look inside the churches in the villages we've visited but today we were unlucky.  Both the church in Ceaux and the Eglise paroissiale Saint-Pierre in Marcay were locked; so we made our way home for a cuppa!