31 January 2013

Shopping in the Blois 'burbs

I don't have much to blog about today. But you know me — that's never stopped me before! So here goes.

Yesterday's shopping trip to Blois was a success. It's a 40-minute drive though it's only about 25 miles. The most direct road runs through the middle of a string of villages and small towns: Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher, Noyers-sur-Cher, Saint-Romain-sur-Cher, Couddes, Contres, Cormeray, and Cellettes. The shopping center, with an Auchan hypermarket as its "anchor" store, is partly in Saint-Gervais-la-Forêt and partly in Vineuil, both south suburbs of Blois. Can you pronounce all those names?

Snail tongs
At Auchan, which is a big new store with a shopping mall attached (maybe two dozen shops), we found some pinces à escargots, which we had been looking for, but we didn't fine a plat pour escargots in which to cook the snails and which we've also been looking for. I have three dozen snails in the freezer — I put them in there, they didn't just crawl in (ha ha ha) — and we bought some disposable aluminum-foil snail dishes a few days ago. They'll have to do. Now we are equipped and we can have another appetizer escargots à la bouguignonne with our dîner one day soon.

Snail pans
We also bought some flour and corn tortillas so that we can make tacos or burritos with some of the pulled pork I cooked and put in the freezer last week. We looked for a bag or box of dried black beans, but with no luck. We got a new throw rug for the kitchen. Some gallon-size zip-top plastic bags. Two huge sweet potatoes for 1€/kilogram. I think the sign said the patates douces were imported from the U.S. — they were probably grown in North Carolina. All this is very exotic stuff when you live in the country outside Saint-Aignan.

Patates douces géantes
Then we went to the big Intersport sporting good store, which is right across the parking lot from the Maître Kanter sauerkraut restaurant where CHM and I had a good lunch last summer (I believe it was last summer). I had browsed Intersport's line of hiking boots on the company's web site beforehand and had tentatively picked out the boots I was interested in. Of course, they didn't have those. The salesman (who was about 13 years old, I think) said they only had fin de séries ("discontinued" lines) shoes and boots right now, and that they would receive a shipment of the new lines in February.

Bertie the black cat couldn't figure out what I was doing with the camera.

I was disappointed but I had a look at the discontinued boots, which were heavily discounted. There were only two or three pairs in my size. I tried one of those pairs on, and then I tried on a couple of promising pairs at the next largest size, where there were four or five pairs. Those were too big. After much trying on and walking around, and detailed discussion with the teenage clerk, I made a decision. I absolutely have to have waterproof shoes or boots right now for walks with Callie, and I can't do much long walking on gravel and through muck in my waterproof but low-top gardening shoes. The pair of boots I finally chose were priced at 120€ (at about $160, pretty expensive IMO) but with a 40% mark-down. So for 72€ I can hike again through the muddy vineyard, fearless.

At that point, we high-tailed it back to Saint-Aignan, under a fine but heavy drizzle and leaden gray skies, for a lunch of raclette and green salad.

I bought these "sweet and sour" pickles
at Auchan just for CHM, for his next visit.

30 January 2013

Notre série noire

Day before yesterday Walt had just gotten out of the shower and was shaving when suddenly the water was cut off. I was downstairs in the utility room doing something and he came running, wrapped in a towel, his face covered in shaving cream. "Was that you? What have you done? There's no water." I didn't know know why. It wasn't me and I hadn't done anything. The water came back on a couple of minutes later. But it was fizzy and cloudy for more than 24 hours.

That got me thinking about our current série noire of minor household disasters.

Roasting winter squashes
It all started when the car failed its biannual inspection in December because of emission issues. « Votre voiture pollue », they told me. At least that situation was resolved after I spent the holidays driving around like a chauve-souris sortant des enfers (translating the English expression word for word). The car finally passed inspection in early January.

About that time, Walt's computer started acting up. It would freeze up for no apparent reason every morning, and he'd fuss and cuss as he had to waste time restarting and then troubleshooting it. Finally, he decided to replace it.

And then one morning I couldn't get my brand new tablet computer to start up. Thankfully, the tech support man at Darty was able to help me out of that scrape. I had feared the worst of course, but I've had no problems with it since then.

Oh, and I sent my Archos internet radio in for a repair yesterday, under warranty. I had to send it to a service center in the Paris region. I've never been able to get it to read an SD card, as it was advertised to be able to do. I hope the repair doesn't take forever.

A few days ago Walt made pizzas for lunch (best I've had in a long time, with chicken, black olives, mushrooms, and mozzarella). A couple of hours later when he went to take the pizza stone out of the oven, it broke in half! And we have no way to replace it. I can't find anything on the internet that would work in our oven and/or not cost a fortune. And nobody around here sells anything like a pizza stone, as far as I know. No resolution on that problem yet.

Une potée for lunch...
A few days before that happened I was heating up a big bowl of broth in the microwave when suddenly the oven turned itself off. No clock. No light inside. I thought it had given up the ghost and I started searching for a new microwave on web merchants' sites like Darty.com and Amazon.fr. Luckily, an hour or two later, the microwave oven started working again. I guess it had just overheated. I've never had one do that before. False alarm, in other words, unless it acts up again.

Over the past few months, the halogen light fixtures we have over the kitchen sink and work surfaces have had two of its six bulbs go out. We're down to four bulbs, which is not enough, especially since one of them is the one right over the kitchen sink. There's really not enough light to wash dishes by. And it's not the bulbs, it's the light sockets in the fixtures that are en panne, with no obvious repair possible. We need to replace the fixtures, and I guess we need to find something with LED lighting.

We went to the BricorMarché store across the river in Noyers a couple of weeks ago to see if we could find any satisfactory under-cabinet light fixtures there. No luck. Then we tried Bricorama in Saint-Aignan. No luck there either. But the woman at the cash register there said they'd be getting in a whole new set of lighting fixtures soon. Yesterday I went and checked, and voilà, exactly what we need, I think. Walt will have to go to Bricorama with me to pick out the right models.

...with sausages
On Monday I was out walking the dog when I realized that the soles had come unglued from my hiking boots at the toe. I got wet feet. Now I have to go somewhere and buy new boots. I can't walk around with the soles flapping — I might trip and break my neck. I tried a store in Saint-Aignan yesterday for new boots, but I struck out. Today I have to drive up to Blois and go shoe shopping.

On top of it all, I'm having trouble with my knees. They ache. If I squat down, I have a hard time getting back up. It happened at the supermarket the other day, and I thought for a minute I was going to have to ask somebody to pull me up to a standing position. My knees hurt especially when I go up or — worse — down the stairs (in this three-level house). I'm in trouble.

And all the while, the dollar has been dropping in value. We've lost 10 cents on the dollar in terms of euros over the last month or two. In other words, 1000 euros now costs us nearly $1350 instead of $1250. Down goes my retirement income.

Did I mention the weather we've been having?

29 January 2013

Water around the vineyard

One week ago today the snow was melting. Water was everywhere. Did I mention that it's supposed to rain again today? But the temperature is closer to 50 than to 30 (fahrenheit, of course).

A water hole in the woods at the edge of the Renaudière vineyard

 Still water along the road that runs through the vines

Snow melt water flowing along the road

Speaking of running water, what we have coming out of our faucets right now is more like hot and cold running Alka-Seltzer. It spits and sputters and fizzes. It's cloudy and yellowish. I hope it's safe to drink, or at least to bathe in and wash dishes with. We're drinking bottled water and I made mineral-water coffee this morning. Yesterday, we had a brief cut in the water supply because there was a broken pipe down the hill from our hamlet. The water has been fizzy ever since.

28 January 2013

L'Ampoule « baïonnette »

Apparently, light fixtures and bulbs that use a bayonet-style mount are common not only in France but also in Great Britain, Australia, and other countries. They don't seem to exist — at least not for household lighting — in the U.S. or Canada.

For me, les ampoules électriques à baïonnette have long been a famiiar feature of French lighting systems. The bayonet has always seemed to me to be an old-fashioned style of light socket compared to the more familiar screw socket invented (I think) by Thomas Edison — even though Edison invented it in 1909. I believe they are making fewer and fewer bayonet fixtures as the years goes by.

This old bayonet style bulb has been in use in our downstairs panty for who-knows-
how-many years. It's been giving us light for 10 years now, and it still works fine.

Here at our house outside Saint-Aignan, we have at least four light fixtures and two old lamps, all of which were here in the house when we moved in 10 years ago, that require ampoules baïonnette. I guess we should have changed them by now, or will need to do so someday soon.

 Maybe it's this elaborate tungsten filament that has kept the old bulb burning for so long.

The fact is, however, that you can find compact fluorescent bulbs with bayonet sockets fairly easily — at SuperU or Intermarché, for example. Having two different kinds of sockets is just another complication you face when you're replacing a light bulb here. Not to mention the fact that the so-called Edison screw sockets come in at least two sizes, large (E27) and small (E14)...

You have to have a stock of all of these kinds of bulbs on hand in case a bulb somewhere in the house needs to be replaced.

27 January 2013

Adjusting to the light

Are you slowly replacing all your incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs or some other kind? Or did you do it all at once? We're still in the process.

I don't know much about the situation in the U.S., but here in Europe the classic, Edison-developed light bulbs we had always used have now been phased out. You can still find a few of them, in lower wattages, in the stores, but officially their commercial distribution was stopped last September. Apparently, merchants are allowed to sell off existing stocks.

We've replaced nearly all of the incandescent bulbs in our house with the ones they call compact fluorescents. They look more or less like the old light bulbs but they behave differently. For example, they take a while to warm up after you switch them on. The light they emit gradually gets stronger until they come up to full power. It can take a few minutes.

Yesterday morning's snow was all melted by noon.

One compact fluorescent bulb we bought at Ikea a couple of months ago has an even more annoying way of warming up. When you turn on the lamp, it comes on for two or three seconds, then it shuts itself off for two or three seconds. It comes back on. It goes back off. In other words, it blinks off and back on four or five times before it finally makes up its mind and decides to light up your life. I have to turn it on and either look away or just close my eyes for 15 or 20 seconds while the light show is going on.

The compact fluorescent bulbs actually produce a kind of illumination that doesn't especially bother me, after they've powered up. But often they buzz. It can be annoying if you're sitting close to one when you're trying to read. I've also noticed that some of them seem to dim down over time, so that a bulb that was giving you adequate light for reading a few months ago ends up seeming too dim.

At any rate, since I now do most of my reading on a tablet computer, I don't need much light at all. I've learned to read my paper documents during daylight hours, standing or sitting near a window.

These bulbs are supposed to last a lot longer than the old incandescents. And they sure cost a lot more to buy. Why is it, though, that the supermarkets now all have big recycle bins at their entrances for burned out fluorescent bulbs? People haven't been using them for very many years, and they are burning out already? I don't understand.

The Renaudie winery's vineyard crew was working out behind our hedge on Friday.

Fluorescent bulbs use a lot less electricity than the old incandescents, so it makes sense to install them in lamps and fixtures that stay on for many hours every day (and in winter here in Saint-Aignan, quite a few of ours do). In other situations, where you need instantaneous illumination and don't leave the light turned on for long stretches of time, they're less well adapted.

In our downstairs pantry, for example, which is windowless... If you go in there to look for something, you need bright light immediately. You can't wait for a bulb to warm up. And you don't stay in there long, so unless you forget to turn it off when you leave the room (confession: it's probably age-related), the bulb hardly ever stays on for more than a couple of minutes. I don't know what we'll do when our stash of incandescent bulbs runs out.

Years ago, we installed halogen fixtures in our bathroom and kitchen. Those also can represent a significant savings in electricity costs for the amount of light they produce. In the bathroom, they're great. They give off a sunny kind of illumination. The bathroom light is another one that doesn't stay on for very long each day. Reducing the amount of electricity you use for lighting that space isn't much of an issue. More important is having pleasant, bright, immediate illumination.

 The kitchen ceiling fixture now has LED bulbs in it, replacing halogen bulbs.

Now halogen lights are being phased out. I'm sorry about that. I've really enjoyed having halogen lighting in the kitchen since we installed a new ceiling fixture in there five or six years ago. The light is bright and warm. The fixture takes five 35-watt bulbs, so that comes to 175 watts. Keeping it on for long stretches of time means high energy consumption. And anyway, the halogen bulbs will soon be hard to find. You can stockpile them now, but how many are you really willing to buy and store?

Recently, for a combination of reasons, we decided to replace the halogen bulbs in the kitchen fixture with LED bulbs. They are the next great thing. The fixture that was using 175 watts when you turned it on now consumes only 12 watts! That's 2.4 watts per bulb. Now I feel like I can leave the kitchen light on longer without worrying about the electric bill.

An LED bulb looks like some kind of radioactive shower head.

The problem is, I don't like the quality of the light. It's cold. It's blue-ish. It's yellow-ish. It looks artificial, or institutional. And my camera doesn't like it either. The photos of food that I like to take, and which used to be so bright and appetizing (I thought), now look kind of sickly. I've been fiddling with camera settings for a couple of weeks now.

At first, I thought that changing the "color mode" setting on the camera from Vivid to Warm had solved the problem. Now I'm not so sure. Some pictures look fine with that setting, but others still are unsatisfactory. I use Photoshop to crop and enhance my photos, but I don't want to spend hours every day trying to make silk-purse images out of sow's-ears photographs.

Maybe I need a new camera. Or maybe I just need to put the halogen bulbs back in the ceiling fixture, for as long as they last.

26 January 2013

Financiers — and a Saturday morning surprise

There was a bright moon shining last night, and I can actually see outside this morning by some kind of moonglow (I guess). Another reason I can see out, I think, is that it's all white out there. We had a surprise snowfall during the night. All the snow from last weekend had melted, and the outdoor decor was back to green. But not this morning. Luckily, I don't have to go anywhere today, and neither does Walt. Not by car, I mean.

View out the front window at 8:05 a.m. today

I just went and stuck my hand out the window, and I can feel that it is still snowing lightly. We're supposed to have a good thaw this weekend so the snow probably won't last long. It may turn into rain this morning. I wonder if the bread lady will make it up the hill. We would normally expect her at sunrise (the sun rises at 8:26 today). If this snow was predicted, I completely missed hearing about it. It's my morning to walk the dog, too.

A batch of Financiers

Over the past couple of days, we've had a chance to use our new silicone Financiers pan a couple of times. I've posted about Financiers, the little French "gold bar" almond cakes, several times over the years,  here in 2007 and here about a year ago. Their distinctive feature is that they are made with almond flour (ground almonds, poudre d'amandes) and egg whites. No yolk (ha ha ha).

Financiers: very sweet, slightly sticky, and crispy around the edges

For the Financier batter, the egg whites are not beaten at all — so the batter is easy and quick to make. It has a lot of butter and sugar in it. The little cakes come out very sweet, slightly sticky, and a little crispy around the edges. I think they are amazingly good (à consommer avec modération, bien sûr). I was going to post the recipe here, but I see that I translated and posted it back in 2007, so you can get it there.


 This 15 lb. pork shoulder cost  just over 13 euros and cooked in the oven for 10 hours.

By the way, I ended up getting just about 6½ lbs. (3 kg) of lean pulled pork from that 15 lb. bone-in, skin-on épaule de porc that I roasted a couple of days ago. It cooked in a very slow oven (just over 200ºF or 100ºC) for 10 hours — to an internal temperature nearly that high. It then cooled overnight before I lifted off the crispy skin and pulled the meat off the bones. I froze the pulled pork in one-pound packages for meals in February and March. I'll spare you all the pictures.

25 January 2013

Tech talk for a Friday

Did I mention how glad I am that I bought my Google Nexus 7 tablet computer here in France? For one thing, I ended up putting off the U.S. trip that I had tentatively scheduled for February and will go over there in April instead. I'm enjoying the tablet computer now instead of waiting until later.

I do all my reading on the Nexus now. I find the 7-inch screen size to be perfect for that application. It's about the size of a standard paperback book page. And the tablet itself is light enough that I can hold it with one hand if I need to, or easily prop it up on my knee when I'm sitting, the way you might hold or prop up a book.

Another reason why I'm glad I bought the Nexus tablet in France is this one: one morning last week, I couldn't get it to start up. It had been working normally the night before. I pushed and held the buttons (power and volume) both separately and together. I held them in for a minute or longer at a time. I looked around on the internet to find some troubleshooting advice. Nothing was working.

So I picked up the phone and called the technical support line at Darty, where I bought the tablet. Within five minutes, the tech support agent had me up and running again. And it's been fine for a week now. It's good to be able to call somebody locally for help rather than having to call the U.S., especially given the time difference.

Did you know that your warranty is valid only in the country where you bought your computer, digital camera, or other device? A couple of years ago, I had trouble here in France with a Compaq laptop computer that I had bought in the U.S. The only way to have it repaired under the warranty was to send it back to HP (Hewlett-Packard owns Compaq) in the U.S. One big problem was that HP wouldn't send it back to France — I would have had to have it shipped to a U.S. address after the repair. I finally gave up and replaced it with a new laptop.

Walt is enjoying getting his new Dell desktop computer set up and configured, re-installing his applications and data. Since he bought the computer in France, it came with a French keyboard and a French version of Windows 8. The French-language Windows interface is not a problem, really, and Walt planned to stick with it rather than wipe Win8 off the hard disk and re-install his U.S. version of Windows 7. But the keyboard, with its unfamiliar layout... well, we happened to have an extra UK keyboard lying around, and he's using that. It's nearly identical to the U.S. keyboard.

As for the French Windows interface, Walt discovered that he could download from Microsoft a language module for Windows that converts all the text in the interface into U.S. English! That is great progress in the software business, from my point of view. Until now, when you bought a software application in France, the interface was in French. For example, I use a French version of Photoshop, because I bought it here, and as far as I know there's no way to change it over to English. Tant pis.

The photos here are some sunrise shots I took earlier in the week, as last week's snow started melting. Would that every January morning were so beautiful.

24 January 2013

Slow-roasting a pork shoulder

I went across the river to Intermarché and bought a big piece of a hog yesterday. C'est une épaule de porc — the whole shoulder, bone-in, skin-on, and it weighs 15 lbs., or nearly 7 kilograms. I'm going to roast it today, and when I say today I mean all day long. It just barely fits in the oven.

 Here's the 15 lb. pork shoulder with a coffee mug in the picture for scale.

The price was good — at €1.95/kg, that makes it about US$1.18/lb at the current exchange rate. In other words, pork shoulder cost €13.38, the equivalent of US$17.82. The butcher at Intermarché told me I got the last one he had. I was happy, because so often he has sold out of the advertised specials by the time I get there.

I sprinkled both sides of the shoulder liberally with salt, black pepper,
smoked paprika, and piment pour harissa (hot red chilli powder).

What will I do with all that pork? I'll "pull" it to make "pulled-pork barbecue." After it cooks for 10 hours or so in a slow oven — just over 100ºC or at most 220ºF — I'll turn the oven up to high and let the roast brown a little, to give it good color and crispiness on the outside. Then I'll let it cool down before shredding the meat by pulling it apart with a couple of forks or my fingers. Finally, I'll season it with a vinegar-based sauce.

The pork shoulder just barely fit in our oven, where it will cook slowly for 10 hours.

I've never done this before. I've made pulled pork, pulled turkey, and even pulled lamb, but never on this scale. I'll be interested to see how many pounds of actual "barbecue" or meat the shoulder will yield. Luckily, pork barbecued this way freezes well and takes up minimal space in the freezer.

22 January 2013

Pain de campagne in a bag

We decided to try something new. I was at the supermarket looking for rye flour (farine de seigle) but I couldn't find any. I read on a French web site that farine de seigle is not easy to find unless you go to a health food or organic grocery store. There's one in Montrichard, but I haven't driven over there yet. The Montrichard organic grocery always seems to be closed for one reason or another when I get there.

Anyway, there at Dia, on the shelves with the flour, were bags of pre-mixed bread preparations, mostly for use with une MAP (une machine à pain, or bread machine). They contain levure (yeast) and/or levain de seigle (leavening or rye-flour sourdough), salt, and different flours, depending on whether you want to make pain blanc (white bread for a regular baguette), pain complet (whole-wheat bread), or pain de campagne (country-style bread, which is mostly white flour but with 10% to 20% rye flour mixed in). That's what I bought.

I figured for a kilogram bag at one euro, I couldn't really go wrong. That much mixture will make two loaves, baguettes, or boules. Sure, the ingredient list included an emulsifier and a couple of other doubtful chemicals, but mostly it was just flour and yeast. We'd see what the result would be. We wanted to make sandwiches, and I thought the MAP mix would give us better bread than the ready-made loaves of pain de mie (American-style sandwich bread) available at the supermarket.

The result was really good, actually. I mixed the MAP preparation with water in the stand mixer and let the machine knead it for 10 minutes. I added in a tablespoon of olive oil (which wasn't an ingredient on the list on the package) because I thought it might make the bread less dry. Then Walt kneaded the dough by hand for a few minutes before putting it in a bowl in a warm place for a short first rising.

Thirty minutes later, Walt punched the dough down and shaped it into a loaf that we could cook in a loaf pan. It sat again for an hour or so until it had risen enough to nearly double in volume, covered by a kitchen towel. Finally, it went into a 230º oven for 10 minutes. To humidify the oven — make some steam — I poured a cup of hot water into the oven pan under the rack that the loaf pan sat on.
After 10 minutes, I turned the heat down to 200ºC and poured in another cup of water, since the first cupful had evaporated. Thirty minutes later, the bread was done. We had to let it cool for half an hour before we could slice it. The sandwiches were pretty good.

This kind of bread preparation is a good thing to have on hand in case the weather doesn't allow for driving to the bakery or the supermarket to buy bread one day. Or if snow and ice keep the bread lady from coming up the hill to our house, for example, and we don't have any bread stashed away in the freezer. I think I'll try some of the preparations for other kinds of bread — maybe whole wheat (pain complet) or pain aux céréales (whole-grain bread).

21 January 2013

Four snow pictures

I think the snow is melting already, but we are supposed to get more of the stuff today. That, or maybe a mix of snow, sleet, and rain. So it's going to be a slushy mess, as the half-melted mush re-freezes and more falls on top of it. I'm not sure when the real thaw is supposed to set in.

This looks like a sepia-tone photo, but it's actually in color. It's the kitchen window view.

This is the time to enjoy how pretty the snow was yesterday, and to be happy if you don't have to go to work somewhere. The lead story on the news is what a hassle getting to work in the Paris region will be for commuters this morning. Paris had as much as four inches of snow in places, and it stuck. That's pretty rare, they said on last night's news report.

Bare grape stems in the snow

The snow ended yesterday, early in the afternoon. At that point, only one car had driven by our house, and it was headed down the hill, not up it. The car had come in by way of the gravel road through the vineyard, which doesn't involve climbing a slippery slope. Later in the day, the village sent a little snow plow through, making our road slightly more passable (I guess).

That's Walt in the back window, watching me and Callie come back from the morning walk.

We called the friends in Saint-Aignan who had invited us to dinner and expressed our regrets. It was still snowing at that point, and it looked like getting the car out would be difficult if not impossible. The problem is that just getting the car onto the little road means getting up a slippery little slope. In past winters, we've had a lot of trouble getting the Peugeot out through the front gate. Once we went sliding sideways and nearly rammed into a fence post.

The back yard yesterday morning, 20 January 2013

We're going to survey the situation and see about going out tonight. However, the weather report on TéléMatin just said that we are still in the winter weather warning zone for more snow or sleet and icy conditions. My guess is that it will be better to stay in unless we absolutely have to venture out, or the temperature suddenly rises and the ice and snow melt away.

20 January 2013

Notre épisode neigeux, etc.

Saturday night: By the way, I love my new tablet computer (called une tablette tactile in French). I don't use it much for composing blog posts, but I'm 'typing' this paragraph on it. I'm feeling more and more comfortable with the on-screen keyboard. For example, I've now figured out how to type the accented characters required by French -- ê é à ï û etc.

What's nice is being able to sit on the sofa or in a comfortable chair and read, surf, or reply to e-mails. Or look things up on Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, or Wikipedia when I'm watching a movie, the news, or a documentary on TV. Or looking at photos that I might decide to post here.

The weather alert area according to last night's TF1 news broadcast

Sunday morning: I didn't get up until 7:00. And yes, it was and is snowing. There's not an awful lot of it so far, but the MétéoCiel forecast say the heaviest snow is yet to arrive.

The view out a back window at 7:15 a.m. today

I have to take the dog out in it in a few minutes. It's not light enough yet. The sun rises at 8:32, and with the cloud cover and snow it's still pitch dark out there.

The forecast map for this morning. Saint-Aignan is just east of the blue dot (Tours)
slightly to the right of weatherwoman Catherine Laborde's left hand.

The snow is always exciting — I guess that's because I grew up on the N.C. coast, where snow was fairly rare, and then I lived in the SF Bay Area in California for so many years, and there it didn't snow at all.

P.S. A final picture, which I took at 8:15 a.m. out the front window

Here in Saint-Aignan, we get some snow nearly every year, but still... Tomorrow it's supposed to rain.

19 January 2013

Il s'en lèche les babines *

Bertie the black cat is an optimist by nature. He thinks the whole big chicken might be for him, and for him alone. * He's licking his chops.

This was a 7¼ lb. capon. Bertie didn't get much, but he did enjoy a few bits
that I pulled off the carcass for him.

Despite predictions of snow, we didn't get any in Saint-Aignan yesterday. Well, we saw a few flurries over the course of the day, but with no accumulation.

Now MétéoCiel, one weather service we keep track of, says we could get 15 cm (6") of snow starting tonight and continuing into tomorrow afternoon. We have no plans to take the car out until it all gets scraped off the roads, or melts. Significant snowfall is rare here and it's a big deal when it happens.

18 January 2013

Through the curtains

The sun finally came back out for a couple of days.
Yesterday's sunrise was bright and clear. And cold.

A mid-January sunrise through the kitchen curtains

Problem is, we're supposed to get snow today and tomorrow. I think
I'd better go to SuperU and make sure we have all the food essentials for the weekend.

17 January 2013

Winter days

It's very cold here this morning. The temperature is –4ºC (25ºF) according to our outdoor thermometer, and it's only 11.5ºC (53ºF) in the house. (We don't keep the heat on overnight — the first thing I did this morning, before I made coffee, was go downstairs and turn it on.)

The pictures in this post show winter in San Francisco, not in Saint-Aignan.

Walt saw this photo on my computer screen and said that he liked it better
than a similar one that I posted yesterday. So here it is.

The weather widget on my computer desktop reports –9ºC (16ºF !). That weather service has found an extremely cold spot in Saint-Aignan for its thermometer. The TV weather report that's on right now says the temperature in Touraine this morning is –4º.

Crisp, clear winter air made it possible to take this shot from far away.

I'm spending a good portion of the days right now working with my Google Nexus 7 tablet computer, trying to figure out how it works and what it can do. I figured out how to get accented characters like é and à and û on the on-screen keyboard yesterday. I've downloaded some free "apps" for file management, etc., from the Google store.

San Francisco isn't all skyscrapers. This shows the Mission District and the Bay Bridge.

And cooking: yesterday for we had boudin noir (AKA blood sausage, black pudding) and boudin blanc (white sausage, white pudding) that we got from the traveling butcher. Both were very good. I made some sautéed potatoes called pommes de terre sautées à cru to go with them and then we had a big salad of escarole lettuce (scarole) and cooked (red) beets (bettarave, beetroot).

Walt did some "winter cleaning"
(can't really call it spring cleaning)
in the kitchen a couple of days ago.
He's perched up there like some kind
of  mountain goat. He said the wall
over the sink needed to be washed.

As always, you can click on the pictures here to see them at a larger size.