My best friend and a puzzle.

El and Peter in Paris last year.2014
El and Peter in Paris last year.2014

The other day I received a present from a very old friend of mine. We went to school together in Paris and really go back a few decades. In fact she is more of a sister to me than a friend.

We have known each others parents, brothers and sisters. We have been to each others’ house over the years and have shared very intimate thoughts. We keep in touch quite regularly and chat about all sorts of things.

So, as I said above I received a lovely present from her the other day. Of course I was quite touched by the gesture and the intention. She knows my tastes in perfumes and my weakness for some candies that we used to have when we were kids. A special shop in Paris where I used to live (that still exists) stocks the same ones we bought some 40 years ago. A real treat. The owner is no longer alive but his daughter has taken over and sell the same things. The only difference is the prices have shot up something shocking. What we used to buy for a few centimes is now quite a few Euros and really a luxury when you buy a couple of packet that amounts to 20 or 30 Euros. And I did not buy many of them.

So here I am with the parcel that she sent. Inside of course, superb perfume from Fragonard. A very famous perfumery in South of France in Grasse. Candies, and a couple of trinkets. A pumpkin shaped porcelain container and a chicken.  I was in a quandary.  This is not the sort of things that I want to have around the place. Not because I did not like them but because I do not want any more bits and pieces to display around the house. I was elated and at the same time annoyed.

I think it reaches a point in one’s life where we do not want any more gadgets, any more ornaments, any more decorative objects, any more items that you have to move around and about to clean behind them, under them and around them. I do not want to be surrounded with items that are gathering dust. Sure I do appreciate the thought and the expense that she went through, but from my point of view they really have no value except taking room and not really functional.

All this to get to the point of why do we accumulate? Sentimental reasons, souvenirs, memories, momentum. I don’t really know. I guess like my mother in law used to say:” to each his own”. I respect that especially coming from my best friend. I fully realise in the end that it is a gesture from the heart and dear El I am truly grateful that you thought of me and have me in your heart all the time. I did tell her tho, that it was not my favourite trinkets. She fully accepted that. We are too close for me not to tell her what I thought and there is so much between us. I know that you understand me completely. I also know it is very delicate to say that sort of things, I have said it. It took  me a while and I have played with the idea also of not telling you anything. . But it was beyond me and I took courage to be frank. So, I told what was on my mind over Skype. Thank you for being so gracious about it.

Till next time.

 

Early morning

Life on the farm has been busy recently. But that is hardly news really. Awake at at 5Am this morning a cup of tea in hands, I ventured outside. Still dark. White clouds shroud the whole valley and the top of the mountain. Chilly and nippy the cold mist spread on the fields creating an eery feeling of the world just about to wake up. The birds have not yet started and a lonely wallaby bent over the grass chews some unknown delicacies no doubt. Its ears pricked up. Noise, foot steps, am I worried? Yes, just a little. The smell of the dogs does not abode well for it. Shall I run or stay? I will stay for a little longer then will see how the situation develops. The last few bats make their way back to the trees and one can hear their heavy flapping as they rush away from the newly appearing sunlight.

Blue Salvia
Blue Salvia

The sky has the colour of light grey charcoal and the half moon stands out yellowish and full of blemishes while the stars are getting a little fainter with each minute as the light starts to appear slowly over the horizon. Distinct bands of foggy clouds hover now and move slowly across or down till they will disappear with the first rays of the sun. Different picture just from a few minutes ago and ever changing, transforming and continuously metamorphosing.

Invigorating… that little bite in the air. A shawl wrapped around my shoulders I venture in the semi dark morning towards the chicken run. The two dogs trailing behind me wondering what I am doing so early. As I opened the coop, the big and gentle ginger rooster called “Ginger”, flies off its perch and comes next to my feet. He does that all the time when I open the door. He seems to talk and asks me all sorts of questions…a chicken babble which I quickly interpret as: “Do you have any food so early”? Not yet, you’ll have to wait a little while, I am not ready yet, I have to open the little coop where the newly born chicks are still sleeping under their fat mother. Yes, Lady Grey is a little plump. Little chirps can be heard muffled by a load of feathers and little heads appear from under mum. They seem to say “can we go out now”? So, Lady Grey starts clucking and they all make their way out of the coop in search of little insects so early in the morning.

The first birds are on the move and their songs echoes in the valley. Butcher birds, noisy mynas are the first in the morning parade. The dogs have smelled the wallaby and they are giving chase. Not a hope in the world tho! It scoots so fast that the poor dogs are left miles behind. But the chase was worth it. A little excitement so early is not to be missed.

Still cup of tea wrapped around my hands, I decided to meander down the drive for a walk to the pond. The cows were not around at the time, so I guessed they would have been at the back where the grass was greener no doubt. They are not going to miss me this afternoon tho!

Butcher Bird quite at home. Frequent visits
Butcher Bird quite at home. Frequent visits

The water hens have not yet emerged. The lilies are about to burst in flowers and thousands of little fish dance in circles in the clear waters in the pond. The dogs are running and frolicking chasing each other, grabbing some sticks and playing tug of war. Sipping the tea, I can feel the dew on the grass as the morning slowly breaks and to the east the first light shines on the opposite slope… slowly. Such a sense of vastness and serenity. Everything is alive, Away from news and politics, away from scandals and gossips, away from greed and the stock market, the economy, new laws, the internet, Facebook, corruption at every turn, wars in the world. Boy! How much can the mind take? Comparing to the calm and freshness…There is really no comparison. It seems that a part of the world has come to a stop. Just does not exist at this moment. All the noise that clutters your mind during the day appears to have ceased…at least for now. Just silence and a pristine state of being. Just breathing the crisp air that bites your nostrils and is drawn deep into your lungs with every breath. Just to be there and a sense of timelessness engulfs you. Everything seems to melt into one single movement. 

As I make my way back slowly toward the house the first rays of the sun beam their little warmth over the land, just a little cosiness this morning. It is not going to be a very hot day as rain is expected later on.

Dogs in tow, I sit down on the bench and soak it in this unspoiled moment. Not for long, John next door is also an early riser and he decided to slash the property next door. The noise of the old diesel motor makes its way sluggishly up the road to our neighbours and breaks the silence. But it is there and that is all. Part of the farm, part of the scene, part of rural living.

Zaina our latest puppy gives Elsie a hard time. She is fast, mischievous and very playful. Not for poor old Elsie whose labrador nature (she is rather plump) does not make her a sprinter. Given that her back leg is also injured, that does not help. But she stands her grounds and Zaina has to tow the line and obey her elders.

The colours of the trees now are greener and the tall bamboos sway gently in the breeze. I make my way to the vegies garden secateurs in hand that I grabbed on the table and start cutting the dead leaves from the tomatoes. Uproot the dead eggplants that have withered from some unknown disease. Plant a few seedlings of corn and okra and water the newly planted gherkins.

Time to see if Peter is awake. But not before peeping at the rose bushes and seeing that there are a few dead branches that I happily snip away. A few weeds also. But I stop there. It is already 7AM. As I enter the house, I can see upstairs that the curtains have been drawn and yes, Peter is awake checking his emails no doubt or maybe just enjoying the view from the window where the bamboos sway lazily in the wind bending graciously almost touching the ground.

Cup of tea” I shout from downstairs? Yes, he replies. So the water is slowly on the boil and in the meantime I set out to feed the dogs and the cat. Quickly run to the chicken run and throw a few handful of sunflowers for them and coming back just in time for the water to be ready.

Oh! and I forget, I also read a few emails from J who went mushrooms gathering in the woods in England and is preparing a feast for dinner. Time for gym and a nice cup of coffee. The day’s chores and routines are about to get into full swing.

Till next time.

Busy at home

Just a few photos of what I have been busy doing over the last few weeks. This old traditional family recipe has been around for more than 150 years and it is a pleasure to do it. Labour intensive it is. Dates and nuts come into the realisation of it and NO SUGAR. Who needs it with the dates? A real treat with coffee.This is what we called: DESERT NOUGAT. No spelling mistake. It is DESERT.

Old family recipe.
Old family recipe.

Cheese making a real fun project  that I enjoyed tremendously putting together and the taste was just superb.

Blue Vein, Camembert and Feta.

Blue Vein and Camembert
Blue Vein and Camembert

 

In the making
This one is Feta

 

 

 

The process.
The process.

It took some time to realise this jumper. I was craving for a nice green one and here it is.

My green jumper
My green jumper

Peter went out after the rain and collected dozens of mushrooms. We had omelettes and I have incorporated them in a chicken ragout. When our son came to join us last week they collected plenty more. By that stage I did not want to see another one…I became almost allergic to them. Just joking!  All super delicious. We even dried some.

 

Mushrooms collected by Peter.
Mushrooms collected by Peter.

 

The few stages of having a dog. Reflections and observations.

The other day I was just thinking about the different stages on possessing a dog. These are the thoughts that I had. This came to my mind as I was watching our new German Shepherd puppy frolicking round and playing with the cat in the garden. Jumping, chasing, running .

Fripouille and Zaina
Fripouille and Zaina

There are different moods and stages on owning a dog. Especially a pedigreed one.

The first stage, one is proud to be associated with a mighty beast. It gives you a sense of power. Reasserting who you are. The power, the strength of the dog is transmitted to you and you feel the ownership of it all. As you strut on the roads, people admire the dog and your chest pumps up every time you receive a compliment from the people sharing your footpath. The kids also want to pat the dog and you feel friendly and want to show off how lovely your dog is. Power is the first stage that goes to your head.

Time flies. Time changes. The dog is no more. You have given it away because you are moving overseas, going into a flat, or a completely different circumstances forces you to find alternatives for your dog..or simply the dog passes away.

After mulling around for a while thinking will I or won’t I get another dog….you still are not quite sure. We start thinking about getting another one. Will I get a big one again or just a little dog from the RSPCA? Not sure. I leave it for a while…but time is not in my favour and after lots of deliberation… from one day to the next I am the owner of another big beast.

A puppy, yes, but this time the dog has to be trained properly. It has to be obedient and his behaviour impeccable. We are going to work on that one and we do. We take the dog for long walks, sit, stay, hold, heel, down, shake hand and the list goes on. My dog is perfect and the compliments keep on pouring in as we parade in the streets showing how well behave our dog is. An example of well-heeled pedigreed canine. There, there is a mixture of the might of the dog and the pride of having done some nice recognised work. A sense of power with the might of the big dog and the fact that the animal is beyond reproach. Total satisfaction, total identity with the size of the dog, achievement, self-importance and snobbish.

Then, times are changing again and they do change of course as one moves through different stages of life. The perfect companion is no more. Another phase, another moment in one’s existence.

Again after a long time of reflection the eternal question arises. Will I get another one? No, I shall leave it for a while. And one does. But after a few months or just a couple of years, the urge to own another little German Shepherd resurfaces and the hunt starts for a nice one again.

The new puppy is brought home. But something has shifted. Sure we still want the perfect mighty and well-trained dog. After all we always did train and groomed them to be the apple of our eyes. The responses that we had from people were always flattering and encouraging. But, it looks like this time not much importance or urgency is given to any of that. It seems that all the associations that we previously had simply vanished into thin air. Yes, we have the “ferocious GS, but he is just a companion a bundle of energy to be reckoned with. We are more laissez-faire, the training is not rigorous, tho, still the basics are taught. We are not ready to walk down the road with her showing her off. We are just contented to take care another lovely bundle of fun and cherish her.

Zaina and Elsie
Zaina and Elsie

Has something changed in the attitude of possession and pride or is it that we are getting older and all the self-importance has just flown out of the window? Well, I think that both are play.

Till next time.

Day inside

The temperature soared to almost 40o  today.  In fact a friend of mine told me that it was 43o in the village. The dogs did not want to put their nose out and neither did we. So, we sat on the sofa reading. (not the dogs) I did some knitting and listened to my audio book. Even the cat sat all day next to us sprawled eagle. He has the knack for that posture or any other weird positions. Stuck between chairs and perfectly at ease looking at you as if it was normal a for a cat to relax in this way. ( may be it is)

Zaina, quite comfortable there

The aircon was going full tilt and it was comfortable. But I was getting restless and decided to do the artichokes that I bought yesterday at my local supermarket. Every year they order me the best produce . I get some broad beans, quinces and artichokes.  Two cases which amounted to a total of 60. So I peeled them and got to the furry heart, got a huge saucepan full of water and slice a few limes or lemons water is growing in the garden at the time and a big pinch of salt. Tossed all the hearts in the boiling water, left them there for a few minutes and then scooped them in jars. The boiling lemony water was scooped onto the jars and then I tightly seal them. That was my artichokes for next year’s feast.

 

Artichokes and Nectarine

Then Peter told me that there were a few nectarines that needed to be done. Ok said I, you cut them and I will bottle them and make some compote out of them. So, as well as getting my fingers black with the artichokes I managed to slip in a jar of home-grown nectarines. Peter had spent a lot of time taking care of them. Pruning, and wrapping the tree in a heavy mesh so that the rats and the bats would not devouring them first. And it succeeded. We obtained some huge fruits and ever so sweet!

It was a languorous day in every way. Then, around 2PM we decided to upstairs and watch an episode of “Prime Suspect” . I always take my knitting with me and advance my sweater. I quite enjoy in knitting. Many people have told me :” do you knit in summer with this heat” ? I reply: ” it is the best time to have your jumper ready for winter. If I knit in winter it never get finish and can’t wear it on time”. So, I always do it in summer. Especially when the heat is so fierce and there is very little one can do outside. At least in winter you still can dress a little and do some gardening.

Talking about gardening, all my matured eggplants just decided to die. They wilted for some unknown reason as they were just starting to produce fruit and off they went. Dead!

Wilted Eggplant.

Till next time on a not so hot day.

 

Early morning

Good morning

Life on the farm has been busy recently. But that is hardly news really. Awake at 5Am this morning a cup of tea in hands, I ventured outside. Still dark. White clouds just visible in the dark shroud the whole valley and the top of the mountain. Chilly and nippy the cold mist spread on the fields creating an eery feeling of the world just about to wake up, emerging from a dream. The birds have not yet started and a lonely wallaby bent over the grass chews some unknown delicacies no doubt. Its ears pricked up. Noise, foot steps, am I worried? Yes, just a little. The smell of the dogs does not bide well for it. Shall I run or stay? I will stay for a little longer then will see how the situation develops. The last few bats makes their way back to the trees and one can hear their heavy flapping as they rush back to their habitat.

The sky has the colour of light grey charcoal and the half moon stands out yellowish and full of blemishes while the stars are getting a little fainter with each minute as the light starts to appear slowly over the horizon. The distinct bands of foggy clouds hover and move slowly across or down till they will disappear with the first rays of the sun. Different picture just from a few minutes ago and ever changing, transforming and continuously metamorphosing.

Invigorating… that little bite in the air. A shawl wrapped around my shoulders I venture in the semi dark morning towards the chicken run. The two dogs trailing behind me wondering what I am doing so early. As I opened the coop, the big and gentle ginger rooster called “Ginger”, flies off its perch and comes next to my feet. He does that all the time when I open the door. He seems to talk and asks me all sorts of questions…a chicken babble which I quickly interpret as: “Do you have any food so early”? But I am not ready yet, I have to open the little coop where the newly born chicks are still sleeping under their fat mother. Yes, Lady Grey is a little plump. Little chirps can be heard muffled by a load of feathers and little heads appear from under mum. They seem to say “can we go out now”? So, Lady Grey starts clucking and they all make their way out of the coop in search of little insects so early in the morning.

The first birds are on the move and their songs echo in the valley. Butcher birds, noisy mynas are the first in the morning concert. The dogs have smelled and are eying intensely the wallaby, ready to pounce, stop a second, wriggle their body and off they go, they are giving chase  Not a hope in the world tho! It scoots so fast that the poor dogs are left miles behind. But the pursuit was worth it. A little excitement so early is not to be missed.

Still my cup of tea  around my hands, a little cooler by now, I decided to meander down the drive for a walk to the pond. The cows were not around at the time, so I guessed they would have been at the back where the grass was greener no doubt. They are not going to miss me this afternoon tho!

The water hens have not yet emerged. The lilies are about to burst in flowers and thousands of little fish dance in circles in the clear waters. The dogs are running and frolicking chasing each other, grabbing some sticks and playing tug of war. Sipping the tea, I can feel the dew on the grass as the morning slowly breaks and to the east the first light shines on the opposite slope… slowly. Such a sense of vastness and serenity. Everything is alive, Away from news and politics, away from scandals and gossips, away from greed and the stock market, the economy, new laws, the internet, Facebook, corruption at every turn, wars in the world. Boy! How much can the mind take? Comparing to the calm and freshness…There is really no comparison. It seems that a part of the world has come to a stop. Just does not exist at this moment. All the noise that clutters your mind during the day appears to have ceased…at least for now. Just silence and a pristine state of being. Just breathing the crisp air that bites your nostrils and is drawn deep into your lungs with every breath. Just to be there and a sense of timelessness engulfs you.

As I make my way back slowly toward the house the first rays of the sun beam their little warmth over the land, just a little cosiness this morning. It is not going to be a very hot day as rain is expected later on. Dogs in tow, I sit down on the bench and soak it in this unspoiled moment. Not for long, John next door is also an early riser and he decided to slash the property next door. The noise of the old diesel motor makes its way sluggishly up the road to our neighbours and breaks the silence. But it is there and that is all. Part of the farm, part of the scene, part of rural living.

Zaina, our latest puppy gives Elsie a hard time. She is fast, mischievous and very playful. Not for poor old Elsie whose Labrador nature (she is rather plump) does not make her a sprinter. Given that her back leg is also injured, that does not help. But she stands her grounds and Zaina has to tow the line and obey her elders.

The colours of the trees now are greener and the tall bamboos sway gently in the breeze. I make my way to the vegies garden secateurs in hand that I grabbed on the table and start cutting the dead leaves from the tomatoes. Uproot the dead eggplants that have withered from some unknown disease. Plant a few seedlings of corn and okra and water the newly planted gherkins.

What a fantastic sensation to wake up to such an abundance of the world!

Time to see if Peter is awake. But not before peeping at the rose bushes and seeing that there are a few dead branches that I happily snip away. A few weeds also. But I stop there. It is already 7AM. As I enter the house, I can see upstairs that the curtains have been drawn and yes, Peter is awake checking his emails.

Cup of tea” I shout from downstairs? “Yes”, he replies. So the water is slowly on the boil and in the meantime I set out to feed the dogs and the cat. Quickly run to the chicken run and throw a few handful of sunflowers for them and coming back just in time for the water to be ready.

Oh! and I forget, I also read a few emails from J who went mushrooms gathering in the woods in England and is preparing a feast for dinner. Time for gym and a nice cup of coffee. The day’s chores and routines are about to get into full swing.

Till next time.