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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Airport Adventures

Today we went to Toulouse airport to meet our friend Ted who lives in Southern Germany.  We've been friends for years and really look on him as one of the family.  Unfortunately, his plane was delayed for an hour, so we decided to have a drive around and come back later.

On our little tour of the area, we were approaching a roundabout when, suddenly, we both ducked and nearly crashed off the road as a great big monster crossed right over our heads, literally!  Ah, we thought, this is a good place to stop and wait for Ted's plane to arrive.  We were right in line with the runway, so could see each flight as it arrived.

We saw, and photographed, two aeroplanes coming in to land, then this arrived :-

It doesn't actually look that big, but it passed right over our heads, and, believe me, it was huge!  This is the Airbus A380, and when it passes over, you know about it!

For a little contrast, this is Ted's flight, a Lufthansa A321, and it looked like a light aircraft after the big boy :-

The Airbus was a bit further away from us, but you can see the difference.

Anyway, welcome home Ted, nice to see you!


Finally finished the merino I've had on a bobbin for weeks.  I plied it with some of my new merino fleece, and I'm really quite pleased with it.

It hasn't told me yet what it wants to be, so I'll put it to one side to mature. 85g of super-soft merino-ness!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Courgette Recipe

If you've had as many courgettes this year as we have, you'll be constantly looking for new recipes.  Unfortunately, I can't claim this one as mine as it came from the BBC Good Food site, but I can claim it as one of my favourites.

Courgette and Parmesan Tart

Ready-rolled puff pastry (I prefer to make my own shortcrust)
3 courgettes, sliced
2 garlic cloves (or more if you like), sliced
Olive oil
4 tbsp mascarpone*
50g grated Parmesan
Salt and black pepper

*I find the mascarpone and parmesan mix a little too thick, so I add some creme fraiche to thin it down a little)

Heat oven to 200 deg.C
Line dish or tray with pastry.
Toss courgettes and garlic with olive oil and lots of seasoning.
Mix mascarpone with half the parmesan and spread in pastry case.  Arrange courgettes in overlapping rows.
Bake 15 mins.
Scatter with remaining parmesan.
Bake 15-20 minutes.

This is a very easy recipe to prepare, and I've dished it up for lots of people. So far, everyone thinks it's fabulous - definitely one to try.

P.S.  The cotton flowers have now fallen off and there's a little bulbil underneath, so I think they were pollinated.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Day 3

Day 3 : self-explanatory.  What a colour change these flowers have had.  If someone told me two days ago this flower was a creamy white, I wouldn't believe them.  What will tomorrow bring?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Fleurs de Coton

Disaster - it's raining and cloudy today.  The flowers have closed up!  They've also changed colour (which I'd read would happen - 1st day white, 2nd day pink, 3rd day dead) and now have streaks of pink running through the petals :-

What a difference from yesterday, it doesn't look like the same flower
I went out with a paintbrush and tickled the insides of each flower, just in case they hadn't been pollinated yesterday.  This one was actually shut quite tightly, the other one is still slightly open.  It was such a lovely day yesterday I think the bees will have found them, but thought it wise to make sure!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Cotton Buds

A very quick update - I have two flower buds on my cotton plants which look almost ready to open.  I think they'll flower within the week.

Apparently the flowers only last two days, so I'll be watching closely to make sure I don't miss them.

I don't know how long it takes after the flower has dropped for the seed pod to form, but I really don't think there's enough summer left to ripen them. Anyway, we'll see - the weather for the next week is still good, and hot, but it is starting to cool down at night.  It would be a shame to get this far and not get even a teensy bit of fluff!

P.S.  Five minutes after publishing this post, I went to check on the buds again, et voila :-

This is the bud I photographed this morning.  It's a beautiful cream colour (but no scent).  And the second one isn't far behind it :-

Aren't they gorgeous?  Fingers crossed that we now get enough good, warm weather to allow them to form seed pods.  It's still 33 deg. C today, but that can change quickly if any bad weather does come this way.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Weekend in Narbonne

We got back yesterday afternoon after spending a nice relaxing weekend just outside Narbonne.  We'd actually planned to come home on Tuesday (today), but it got really windy over there.  So we decided to set off yesterday morning and travel to Castelnaudary (home of cassoulet) and spend the night there. Then, about half an hour outside Narbonne, the heavens opened and didn't stop.  So we didn't stop either!

We had our lunch in Ikea, Toulouse and had a look around, bought a few things (new kitchen knife, wine glasses, water glasses etc., all boring stuff), then set off again and just came home.

So, what did we get up to, apart from lazing around, eating, reading, watching the world go round?  Well, we'd taken our little motorbike (it's only a 125cc, but that was the biggest we could fit on the back of the campervan, and it gets us around) so we had a ride around the area to see what there was.  We found this really pretty little town not far away from where we were camping.

It's called Gruissan, and has an old ruined castle on the top of the rock in the centre.  From this side you would think it's an island, but actually it is attached to the mainland on one side.

There was a large market going on, so we stopped and had a wander around.  It turned out to be a mediaeval market, and there were lots of craft stalls with people dressed in mediaeval clothes.  They'd really made a huge effort. Then we found a stall selling witches (in Fimo) so I had to have one for my spinning wheel :-

I haven't decided on a name for her yet - any ideas?  I think she looks like a Matilda or Henrietta or Esmerelda, but if anyone has any better ideas, let me know.

This is a photo of me which is supposed to show the animals that were in the wooden enclosure behind, but somehow they got lost (photographer's fault!), but he did get the old ruined tower in the background . . . as well as the old ruin in the foreground!!

And one of Eric by the quayside (no, he's not proposing, just posing!)

This is looking out over the Meditterranean - there were lots of little boats out there, but they don't show up from this distance.

We did go and have a look around Narbonne city too, but to be quite honest, I'm not really a city person and to me, it was just like any other French city.

What else did I manage?  I finished my book - it was a very easy read called Folly by Alan Titchmarsh of all people.  I'd been lent it by a friend and it was actually quite entertaining.  I finished spinning this wool which has been sitting on my wheel for quite a number of weeks :-

It's some pre-dyed merino that I bought with the £15 fibre voucher I received when I bought my spinning wheel.  I got a large bag of mixed colours, and this is four of them that I picked out and blended.  I'll probably spin a bobbin of white to ply with it - so, unless I get my finger out, it could be hanging around for a while yet!

I also finished the 2nd sleeve for Colette's sweater dress :-

So, all in all, not a bad weekend.  I'm a bit embarrassed by how few photos I took - I'm still not used to having a camera at hand all the time and I forget.

Right, off to make lunch and then clean the camper out ready for next time.

Friday, 16 September 2011

In the Summertime, When the Weather is High . . .

 . . . we're off to the Med today in our campervan.  We don't have any visitors until the 27th, so decided to take a little break.  We have rain forecast here at the weekend, so the garden should get some water while we're away. We're just going for four nights, back on Tuesday.  The spinning wheel is going with me, plus my merino fleece, plus my knitting and current book, so who cares if it rains - I'll be OK.  Eric, of course, is taking a guitar or two.

We probably won't have telephone or internet when we get back because France Telecom have finally decided to replace our rubbish phone line, about half a kilometre of it.  They reckon it'll take five days to do, so we're hoping they'll start on Monday and we'll be back on line next Saturday - fingers crossed.

Will post some photos when we get back, or at least when we have internet again.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

What is it about September??

Just been on Facebook only to see an announcement from Wicked Stepson No. 1 (Ben) . . . he's just got engaged to Sam!  There's definitely something in the air this month - 3 engagements in less than 2 weeks.  Well done all six of you, could be an expensive time coming up!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Knitting Progress

Colette's sweater dress now has a sleeve :-

It looks a bit odd at the moment, but I'm cracking on with the 2nd sleeve. Yesterday I managed to pull my back while watering the garden so I've been  banned from doing anything physical for a few days.  Perfect opportunity to sit and knit, read, cuddle the cat etc, and I'm getting my meals cooked.

Now, I wonder how long I can stretch this out . . .

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Cotton Update

My cotton plants have grown pretty well so far.  We have had some good, hot weather, but really they were just planted too late.  However, today I found a flower (at least I think it's a flower).  It probably won't develop into anything as it's starting to cool down now, but I'm pretty sure it is a flower.

This has actually given me hope that next year I can grow cotton!  If it's sown a lot earlier, and protected, I think I should be able to grow my own.

My new greenhouse will help towards that end.  Work started this week on my greenhouse.  We had been waiting for the visit of my sister and brother-in-law to start the work, because Geoff used to be a welder in his previous life, and we needed welding!

These photos show one of the roof panels being lowered into place.  It's still far from completion, but at least it's started.  I have high hopes of being able to start things off in there in the late autumn.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Surprise! er, Surprise again!!!

This morning we received a surprise phone call from Wicked Stepson No. 4 who is at present in New Zealand (correction : they've just left and gone to Australia) with his girlfriend Rona.  He's been there for nearly a year working as a vet.  Sunday night he took her for a walk on the beach and proposed!! She's now wearing a very, very sparkly rock on the third finger of her left hand!  Well done Matthew and Rona.  Can't wait to see you both.

And you'll never guess what happened 5 minutes ago . . . Wicked Stepson No. 3, Nic, who is on holiday in New York with his girlfriend Vika, phoned up with some good news . . .

Apparently, it wasn't planned between them, and they both sprung the surprise on their unsuspecting partners a day apart.  Nic now has a few more grey hairs as he proposed to Vika in a park next to the Brooklyn Bridge, and she said no!!  (She doesn't like surprises).  Luckily, she said yes later on when he asked her again!

So, congratulations to all four of you.  Now, how about a double wedding? That way we only have to buy one outfit.  In fact, can we persuade Wicked Stepson No. 1 (Ben) and his girlfriend Sam to make it a triple??

Just off to open the champagne!!

Free Chunky Wool

A few weeks ago I was given a kilo of brown chunky wool.  It's very old and came from a house clearance.  I thought at first it had been hand spun, but now think it's just a bit too even for that.  What is unusual is that it still has quite a lot of dried vegetable matter, and it's not something you see in factory spun wool nowadays.

Anyway, brown is definitely not my colour, and Eric wasn't really needing a new sweater, so Colette (from the Dolly Blues band) asked if I would make her something.  She wanted a sweater with a hood, but I've never done a hood before, so we settled on just a sweater with a slash neck.  Since then, it's progressed to a sweater dress and yes, you've guessed it, the hood has reappeared!  Not just any hood either, she wants a detatchable one.  Anyone know how to knit a hood?

This is as far as I've got so far, just another inch or two to armhole level.

The bottom is plain stocking stitch, but she wanted the top half in moss stitch.  By next Tuesday I'm hoping to have both sleeves started so we can work out where to start the moss stitch so it matches.  It's actually knitting up very quickly so should be able to manage that.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Ken's Hat

Yesterday was Ken's 60th birthday.  Ken plays guitar and sings with one of our bands, Al Fresco.  I really didn't know what to give him for his birthday, but it gets pretty cold here in winter and he works outside a lot.  So, this is what I made for him :-

a silly little hat with plaits.  The wool is a bit of a mystery - it's either Friesland or Gritstone, but I can't remember which.  It's been dip dyed with natural dyes but again, I can't remember what I used.  The yellow could be sunflower though.  The plaits are natural camel down, which I used because it looks a bit like hair in colour.

This is a side view showing the pony tail hole at the back :-

Ken - if you don't like the plaits, ask Angela to snip them off for you.